The re-election of Tasmania’s Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Will Hodgman has disappointed the local Aboriginal community, Palawa Elder Michael Mansell has told NITV News.
“Mr Hodgman’s most objectionable stance has been his indifference to [the] destruction of Aboriginal heritage,” he said.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal rights activist said Premier Hodgman has antagonised the community since he came to power and will need to “work hard to mend bridges”.
“During his previous term of office, Mr Hodgman’s government closed the only Aboriginal youth diversion program that had been funded since 1998, he refused to lift a finger against the removal of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service to Victoria, he promised land returns, did not return a speck of soil, but started politically attacking Aboriginal cultural heritage, a position which seemed to define his promise to reset the relationship with Aboriginal people,” Mr Mansell said.
Mr Hodgman was heavily criticised for his stance on the heritage-listed ‘Takayna Coast’, where he pushed to re-open four-wheel-drive tracks in a remote area with a strong cultural significance.
The off-road vehicle tracks were closed by the former Labor government in 2012 in an attempt to protect an extensive network of archaeological and cultural sites.
“Despite a spider web of 94 tracks, giving 80 kilometres of vehicle access to dunes, beaches and remote areas alongside Aboriginal heritage, Mr Hodgman wants to re-open tracks to 4WD vehicles that have grown over and been closed for 30 years,” Mr Mansell said.
Mr Hodgman’s proposal to re-open the Takayna Coast tracks for off-road use last year was referred to the Federal Government for an independent assessment, but was denied and remains closed under environmental law.
A spokesperson for the Hodgman government said they were working closely with the Commonwealth government to provide the information required to assess and approve their proposal to re-open tracks in the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area.
“Our proposal has been supported by the locally based, Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation and we believe an appropriate balance can be struck between access and protection,” a spokesperson said.
“It has taken a majority Liberal Government to pass significant legislative reform which provides additional protection for the state’s Aboriginal heritage by increasing penalties for damage to Aboriginal heritage.
The Hodgman Liberal Government spokesperson reiterated their commitment to "resetting the relationship with Tasmania’s Aboriginal people”.
But Mr Mansell said the Hodgman Government did not announce on election night any attempt to mend the relationship with the Aboriginal community.