Central Land Council chief executive officer Lesley Turner welcomes the appointment of Tony McAvoy SC, Australia’s first Aboriginal senior counsel, as the Territory’s treaty commissioner.

“Mr McAvoy is an inspired choice to progress an NT treaty,” he said.

“His work as co-senior counsel with the Royal Commission into Youth Detention in the NT has given him an excellent insight into the barriers that are stacked against Aboriginal Territorians from a very young age.

“He understands the need for a fundamentally different approach to child protection as it relates to our children, who are still being imprisoned at record rates,” Mr Turner said.

“A lifetime of working in the legal and government sectors as a Wirdi man have prepared him for settling the unfinished business between our peoples and the NT Government.”

Appointed senior counsel in 2015, Mr McAvoy has developed a strong native title practice and has successfully appeared for claimants in several land claims.

He has significant experience in the areas of administrative law, human rights and discrimination law, coronial inquests, criminal law and environmental law, having acted as Commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment Court.

Mr McAvoy also co-chairs the Indigenous Legal Issues Committee of the Law Council.

“I can think of no-one better to take the treaty forward and wish him every success,” Mr Turner said.

8 December 2021

CLC delegate Sabella Turner spoke at the Council meeting.

The Central Land Council has rejected a legislated Aboriginal voice to parliament.

Meeting at an outstation near Uluru today, the delegates passed the following resolution unanimously:

“Council sees that governments change.

We are the Aboriginal voice of central Australia. We are tired of government changing laws that affect our lives.

Our laws were here first, they are the original laws of this land.

Our systems of governance are still strong. Our voice needs to be embedded in the foundations of this nation.

We reject symbolic recognition in the constitution.

We want to be part of designing the voice to parliament. We demand that it be protected in the constitution.”

The CLC delegates heard from former Referendum Council members Professor Megan Davis and Pat Anderson, and Anangu leader Sally Scales before they debated the resolution.

They were concerned that a legislated voice can be abolished by the stroke of a pen.

“The abolition of ATSIC is still fresh in the minds of our members,” CLC chair Sammy Wilson said.

“This government will be struggling to win over Aboriginal people in the heart of the nation for its plans.”

For images of the council meeting go to http://tiny.cc/3u6bfz

MEDIA CONTACT: Elke Wiesmann | 0417877579| media@clc.org.au

Central Land Council chair Francis Kelly has welcomed the appointment of Professor Mick Dodson as the Northern Territory‘s treaty commissioner and invited him to the CLC’s council meeting near Uluru in early April.

Today’s announcement clears the way for consultations with Aboriginal Territorians to find out if they want a treaty or multiple treaties with the NT government.

“I can’t think of a better listener and advocate for our people than Mick Dodson,” Mr Kelly said.

“The Barunga Agreement our four land councils negotiated with the government will be his roadmap for the consultations.”

“When we signed the agreement, last June at Barunga, we said we only bounced the ball,” he said.

“Now it’s time for all Aboriginal people to run with the ball and have their say about treaty.”

In negotiating the agreement the land councils made sure that the treaty commissioner role is independent and adequately resourced to consult widely.

“I have no doubt that Mick’s report to the NT government will reflect the informed views of the Territory’s Aboriginal peoples on this complex issue,” said CLC chief executive Joe Martin –Jard.

“We will hold the government to its commitment to give him the time and resources he needs,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

He said the grass roots deliberations leading up to the Uluru Statement were a good model for informed decision making around a complex set of questions.

The Barunga Agreement, which was negotiated in the first half of 2018, sets out the principles for progressing a treaty or treaties in the NT.

“The agreement was the result of much hard work on behalf of the CLC and the other land councils,” Mr Martin-Jard said.

“When you consider that these processes in other jurisdictions have taken years this was a significant achievement.”

When the land councils took the initiative and wrote to the government about a treaty they always intended to throw the process wide open.

“We have maintained throughout that it is not up to the land councils alone to negotiate with the government, but a matter for all Aboriginal people in the NT”, Mr Martin-Jard said.

“Every Aboriginal person and community must now get the chance inform themselves and put forward their views on whether or not they want a treaty and, if so, what should be covered.”

The Barunga Agreement is here

Joint media release by the Land Councils and the NT Government Statement

The Northern Territory’s four Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government have today signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding (the “Barunga Agreement”), paving the way for consultations to begin with Aboriginal people about a Treaty. A joint meeting of the four Land Councils at Barunga this week voted to empower their Chairmen to sign the MOU.

This is a momentous day in the history of the Territory, a chance to reset the relationship between the Territory’s First Nations and the Government,” Northern Land Council Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanansi said. “We’ve got big journey ahead of us. The MOU gives us high hopes about the future and I hope the Government stays true to spirit of the MOU.”

Central Land Council Chairman FrancisJupurrurla Kelly said: “I hope a treaty will settle us down together and bring us self-determination. Today we bounced the ball but we don’t want to stay the only players in this game. The next steps must be led by Aboriginal people across the Territory so that everyone can run with the ball and have their say.”

Anindilyakwa Land Council Chairman Tony Wurramarrba said: “We celebrate the highly significant step that has been achieved today and will work with the Northern Territory Government and other Land Councils to continue the important work required to achieve the goal of a Northern Territory Treaty.”

Tiwi Land Council Gibson Farmer Illortaminni said: “We’ve got to be careful and understand each other about what we want, because we don’t want to have the same problems we’ve had in the past. The MoU is a good start, but we’ve got a long way to go. The Government needs to be honest and transparent.”

Chief Minister Michael Gunner, who signed on behalf of the Government, said: “This is the first day of a new course for the Northern Territory. The MoU we have signed today commits us to a new path of lasting reconciliation that will heal the past and allow for a cooperative, unified future for all. “

A Territory where everyone understands our history, our role in a modern society and our united and joint future will be an important achievement for all Territorians.”

The Territory Labor Government promised soon after the election in 2016 to advance a Treaty, and the MoU is the result of intensive discussions and negotiations between the Land Councils and the Government.

Significantly, the MoU was signed on the first day of the Barunga Sport and Cultural Festival – the 30th anniversary of the presentation of the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who went on to promise a Treaty between the Commonwealth and Australia’s Indigenous peoples, but has remained undelivered.

Under the terms of the MOU NT Government will appoint an independent Treaty Commissioner who will lead the consultations with Aboriginal people and organisations across the Territory, and develop a framework for Treaty negotiations. The Commissioner will be an Aboriginal person with strong connections to the Territory, and expressions of interest will be called for the position.

The Land Councils and the Northern Territory Government will make their extensive regional staffing networks available to the Treaty Commission to organise consultations in communities.

The MoU prescribes that all Territorians should ultimately benefit from any Treaty, which must provide for substantive outcomes. It’s founded on the agreement that there has been “deep injustice done to Aboriginal people, including violent dispossession, the regression of their languages and cultures and the forcible removal of children from their families, which have left a legacy of trauma and loss that needs to be addressed and healed”.

“The process will begin with an open slate. We will start with nothing on or off the table,” Mr Gunner said.

The MoU acknowledges that there is a range of Aboriginal interests in the Territory, and that all Aboriginal people must have the opportunity to be fully engaged. It further acknowledges that non-Aboriginal people “need to be brought along in this process.”

The document leaves open the possibility of multiple treaties, and lays out a timetable for the work of the Treaty Commissioner.

Read the agreement

Link to the NT Government website

A historic meeting between the Northern Territory Government and the Territory’s four land councils has agreed to establish a working group to develop a memorandum of understanding about how a treaty between the government and the NT’s Aboriginal people should progress.

The MoU will cover the principles, consultation process and roadmap leading to a treaty. It will be developed in time for signing at the Barunga Festival on Friday June 8th.

Representatives of the land councils met in Alice Springs with Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Aboriginal MLAs Selena Uibo and Chansey Paech. It was the first ever meeting between a Territory government and all four land councils to begin a treaty process.

Mr Gunner thanked the land councils for their “constructive engagement and advice” and for having taken the lead in proposing the working group. The land councils want traditional owners and communities to be front and centre during the treaty negotiations. Other Aboriginal organisations will be engaged once the MoU has been drafted.

Mr Gunner made a commitment following the NT election in August 2016 to open discussions about a treaty. He then established an Aboriginal Affairs sub-committee of Cabinet, whose priorities included advancing a treaty.

Mr Gunner told the meeting with land councils that he favoured the appointment of an independent commissioner to lead the advancement of a treaty, following the examples of Victoria and South Australia.

This year’s Barunga festival will mark the 30th anniversary of the presentation of the Barunga Statement to Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who promised a treaty with Aboriginal people. The Barunga Statement is now on display in Parliament House, Canberra.