Tasmanian upper house stymies land rights

Issue 

Tasmanian upper house stymies land rights

BY KAMALA EMANUEL

HOBART — Showing the extent to which the official reconciliation process has served as a smoke-screen for refusing justice to Aboriginal people, the Tasmanian upper house has released a report recommending against the handover of land to Aborigines on the grounds that to do so would "hurt" reconciliation.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council's John Dickson said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the July 4 report, the release of which coincided with National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Commemoration (NAIDOC) week.

The Legislative Council report reviewed amendments to the Aboriginal Land Act proposed by Premier Jim Bacon, which would have returned eight areas of culturally significant crown land to the Aboriginal community, enabled Aboriginal people to determine "Aboriginality" (with disputes to be settled by the Supreme Court), and allowed Aboriginal control of customary burial and cremations. The report supported amendments giving Aborigines control of burials and cremations, but opposed the two other changes.

The Land Council's Clyde Mansell told Green Left Weekly that the report's recommendation that there be "wider consultation" before the changes are enacted ignored the extensive consultation that had already taken place within the Aboriginal community and could lead to the indefinite postponement of the lands' return.

The impact of the land transfers, which total less than 52,800 hectares, would be minimal on the non-Aboriginal community, he said, while holding up the transfer shows a lack of recognition of the place of land and history in Aboriginal culture.

Mansell believes the committee's implication that land and reconciliation don't go together shows that it is a long way from the attitudes of the broader community.

Dickson is even harsher, in a media release saying that the report "panders to selfish, ill-informed and narrow-minded beliefs".

The Hobart City Council has called a walk for reconciliation across Tasman Bridge on July 23. Mansell says that supporters of justice for Tasmania's indigenous people should use it as an opportunity to show their support for the land transfer.

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