Tasmanian Aboriginal leaders have asked the state government to develop a treaty during their first meeting with Premier Peter Gutwein.
The meeting was arranged prior to the recent Black Lives Matter protests and vigils in Australia, but the movement has given momentum to what Aboriginal Tasmanians have been calling for for more than a decade.
Michael Mansell, chairman of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council, and Greg Brown, Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation board member, were the two Tasmanian Aboriginal delegates at the meeting.
Mr Mansell said Mr Gutwein’s upswing in popularity for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the public’s wider recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement, meant it was a good time to address Aboriginal issues.
“We suggested if there was a time for the government to rely on the goodwill of the public, now is the time to do it,” Mr Mansell said.
“The Labor party and the Greens will support the government if they have got a progressive agenda that delivers land, some sort of empowerment and compensation and dignity to Aboriginal people in this state.”
Some of the issues discussed at today’s meeting included a possible treaty, the returning of Aboriginal land, and Aboriginal representation in parliament.
Another meeting between the two Aboriginal delegates and the Premier has been scheduled for next month.
Mr Brown said a relationship with the Premier had been established.
“If I was to sum up the meeting today I would say it was quite successful,” he said.
“The premier does appear to have an understanding of the issues we’re facing, he seemed very committed to taking to up the issues.”
A treaty is an agreement between the government and Indigenous people.
Australia’s Federal Government does not have a treaty with Aboriginal people, and no Australian state or territory has established its own.
Mr Mansell said the Premier’s office has been given a list of about 40 items that Tasmanian Aboriginal people want resolved.
“When you’ve got 40 minutes with the Premier you can’t raise all of the issues, which is another reason that we’re pleased the Premier has opened up his office and said to Aboriginal people welcome, and you’re welcome to come back again in a months’ time.”
One of the issues that wasn’t discussed today was the statue of former Tasmanian Premier William Crowther in Hobart’s Franklin Square.
In 1869 William Crowther mutilated the body of Aboriginal man William Lanne, by removing his skull and sending it to the Royal College of Surgeons in London.
“If that man did that today, he would locked up in jail,” Mr Mansell said.