Aboriginal leaders are doubtful that treaty negotiations will continue with SA's newly formed Liberal government.
Douglas Smith

19 Mar 2018 - 6:08 PM  UPDATED 19 Mar 2018 - 6:15 PM

The swearing in of Liberal leader Steven Marshall as the 46th Premier of South Australia on Monday has the local Aboriginal community wondering about their future; especially given he has previously referred to treaties as a “cruel hoax” that would not be supported by his government.

The previous Labor Government started the process for Australia’s first ever treaty after it signed the ‘Buthera Agreement’ with the Narungga Nation mid-February. 

Narungga man, Tauto Sansbury was a part of the signing and discussions for the agreement and said the community was now concerned that treaty talks in South Australia would cease to exist.

“I don’t think any Liberal government wants to talk about or negotiate a treaty in any state or territory,” Mr Sansbury said.

“One of the things about a treaty is that it acknowledges the mistreatment of Aboriginal people and recognises us a sovereign nation,” he said.

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Mr Marshall is yet to announce who will become the state’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister but has previously stated that a Liberal government would move the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio into the premier’s department.

Former Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Kyam Maher said his government found overwhelming support for a treaty, and that the Buthera Agreement was a legal agreement between an Aboriginal Nation and the State Government, which he expected to be honoured.

“After the most comprehensive consultation the State Government has ever undertaken with Aboriginal people, we found overwhelming support for Treaty and the Treaty process,” Mr Maher said.

“Aboriginal leaders around SA were appalled and horrified when the Liberal Party, without any consultation, decided not to support Treaty and I think are rightly worried about what a Liberal government will mean in this space.

“We've seen how the Federal Liberals have treated Aboriginal Affairs with Tony Abbott saying connection to culture and country is a mere 'lifestyle choice' and Malcolm Turnbull turning his back on the aspirations of Aboriginal people by ignoring the Uluru Statement.

“It would be a massive blow to the South Australian Aboriginal community if this was stopped,” he said.

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In terms of addressing issues in the Aboriginal community, the Liberal government has only promised to appoint an Assistant Commissioner for Aboriginal Children, and to build a National Aboriginal Art and Culture Gallery at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.  

Mr Marshall also announced bringing in legislation for January 26, stopping local councils from attempting to change citizenship ceremonies and Australia Day events to a different day. The South Australian Aboriginal community has made their voice heard on Australia Day, joining the national ‘Change the Date’ campaign, hosting a mass protest on the streets on Adelaide, just like other major cities around Australia.

NITV News has sought comment from Mr Marshall but has not received a reply.