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First Nations treaty bill tabled in Queensland parliament

Govt reveals laws for path to treaty

A treaty between First Nations peoples and Queensland is closer to reality as proposed laws are introduced to the state’s parliament.

A five-member Truth and Healing Inquiry and a First Nations Treaty Institute are the centrepieces of the legislation tabled by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Wednesday.

“One of the first orders of business for this parliament 163 years ago was the Occupation of Crown Lands Bill, to address what one member described as the ‘serious collision’ between squatters and Aboriginals,” Ms Palaszczuk told parliament.

“That was putting it mildly.

“What we do here today is what our forebears should have done back then.”

The Queensland Greens said they’re fully supportive of a push for treaties with First Nations people, but more funding was needed for a meaningful process.

Greens MP Amy MacMahon said the government could better support communities by abandoning its hardline youth justice approach that “will ruin the lives of young First Nations people”.

A Katter Australia Party spokeswoman said it has been sceptical of the Path to Treaty process, but it will give it “the time and consideration it deserves” with tangible legislation in the house.

The Liberal National opposition hasn’t indicated its position yet.

Terms of reference for the planned Truth and Healing Inquiry are not yet set, but it will be designed to be “non-adversarial” and people generally won’t be compelled to give evidence.

However, it will have powers to require government entities to provide information and their CEOs may be issued notices to attend hearings.

Entities will have grounds to refuse to provide documents if they reveal personal or prejudicial information, are subject to privilege or contain commercial in confidence details.

It will be an offence to knowingly give false or misleading information to the inquiry.

Ms Palaszczuk said the inquiry would “travel the state” to document the stories of families and communities “handed down over the past 200 years” and examine the historical and ongoing impacts of colonisation.

“This is not about guilt. This is about revealing the truth of our state, denied and buried for too long,” she said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will make up the majority of the inquiry’s members.

The new First Nations Treaty Institute will be a statutory body and play a key role in developing the process for how treaty negotiations are conducted.

It will not be a party to treaty negotiations or represent the state and is designed to prepare Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups for participation in the process.

“Our treaty will not be handed down from government,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“It will be developed from community to community because each has its own story to tell.”

The new laws also remove outdated provisions and language in existing laws that are at odds with “the commitment to a reframed relationship and compatibility with human rights”.

Examples include removing a provision providing for the management of the property of an Indigenous person.

The premier urged Queenslanders to find the courage, compassion and commitment to “finish this unfinished business” and make the most of the opportunity.

The state previously established a $300 million Path to Treaty fund, guaranteeing $10 million a year to the proposed treaty institute.

-AAP

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