Former Australian of the Year Mick Dodson will lead treaty negotiations between Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory government.
The Indigenous rights advocate will start a new role as the inaugural NT treaty commissioner on March 4 and is expected to present a final report within two-and-a-half years.
The appointment was supported by all four NT land councils and the minister for Aboriginal affairs.
It follows the historic Barunga Agreement, which was signed last year by the government and the land councils, and paved the way for treaty consultations to begin.
"We as a nation must come face to face with our dark and traumatic history,” Prof Dodson said.
“We must confront the impact of colonisation and begin the process of acknowledgement, recognition and healing. The NT has embarked on dealing with this task by this courageous step of setting up this commission.”
Chief Minister Michael Gunner described Prof Dodson as one of Australia’s “most highly regarded advocates”.
“I welcome Professor Dodson to this critical appointment and look forward to working with him on the delivery of Treaty," he said.
A Yawuru man born in Katherine, Prof Dodson was Australia’s first Indigenous law graduate and the country’s first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner.
He subsequently pursed an academic career while campaigning for progress in Indigenous affairs.
His brother, Labor Senator Pat Dodson, is the shadow assistant Indigenous affairs minister.
“I was born in the NT and lived and worked here for over half my life so I feel well equipped for this role,” he said.
"Anyone who has listened to me talk publicly knows that I am concerned with what I call ‘the unfinished business’. A Treaty is a good place to start with addressing this unfinished business."
Mick Dodson will be asked to determine:
- What a Northern Territory treaty will seek to achieve
- Whether there should be one or multiple treaties
- The best model for a treaty in the Northern Territory
- What outcomes are possible under a treaty for Aboriginal people and what process is best for negotiating a treaty
Mick Dodson will be responsible for:
- Consultation with Aboriginal people on their support for a treaty, including representative bodies and community groups
- Developing a suitable framework to further treaty negotiations with the Northern Territory government.
- Recommend the best of Aboriginal representation in any future Treaty negotiations.
- Ensure non-Aboriginal Territorians are informed of the process.