• Palawa Elder Uncle Michael Mansell says there needs to be an Aboriginal voice in Tasmanian parliament. (Elliana Lawford, NITV)Source: Elliana Lawford, NITV
Pressure on other states to follow a proposal put to the Tasmanian parliament for two state-wide, reserved Aboriginal seats.
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

Source:
NITV News
29 Jul 2019 - 3:55 PM  UPDATED 29 Jul 2019 - 3:55 PM

Palawa Elder Uncle Michael Mansell says a new proposal to add two reserved seats for Aboriginal representatives to the Tasmanian parliament would set a precedent for state governments across Australia.

Four Aboriginal bodies – Elders, TAC, Cape Barren and the Aboriginal Land Council - made a combined submission to the House of Assembly Restoration Hearing last Monday to restore 35 members to the state's parliament.

At present, there are five electorates across Tasmania with each containing five elected representatives, making a total of 25 seats in the parliament.

The parliament is currently considering increasing the number of representatives to seven in each electorate, bringing the total number of seats to 35.

The two proposed Aboriginal seats on top of the 35 would be state-wide seats rather than included in one or two of the electorates and Uncle Michael said the model may appeal to other state parliaments across Australia.

"Any Aborigines who are in the parliaments are voted in not by their own people but through political parties, which means they're compromised because they owe their allegiance first of all to the political party that put them there," he told NITV News.

"I think that other states can see that if Tasmania can see that representative democracy means including Aboriginal people in the parliamentary process, there would be absolutely no reason why other states couldn't adopt the same process."

Uncle Michael said representation of the population is important because the state government often decides where money and land is allocated to Aboriginal people without consultation, which is why he has pushed so hard for parliamentary reform.

"At one stage [the parliament] was saying, 'Well, maybe we need to get to the core of the make up of the parliament sorted out first, and then come back and talk about Aboriginal seats,'" he said.

"We argued, strongly, 'hang on there a minute - the core of democracy must include Aborigines now, otherwise there is no core'.

“It’s discriminatory, it’s exclusive, it’s an all white parliament, and that is not the core of democracy... Make sure Aboriginal people are included in any changes to the Tasmanian parliamentary make up."

Another option would have been to add an Aboriginal seat to each electorate, said Uncle Michael, but that wasn't a viable option.

“What’s the chances of getting two? What’s the chances of even getting one?" He said.

"The higher the number you go, you lose the discussion about principle - should Aboriginal people as a right, be able to elect their own people into state parliament?

"Across the board everyone seems to be saying they can’t argue against that, and that yes, Aborigines have been excluded for too long and the Aboriginal voice should be there.

"The minute that you come up with large numbers the discussion changes from, ‘yes Aborigines should be there’ to ‘well, why should they have that many’ so it’s important to find a middle ground."

The state's parliament is expected to make a decision on the proposal in September.

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