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Statement on Treaty

As a reflection of our recognition of the deep history and culture of this island, we wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of lutrawita/Tasmania.

We acknowledge the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, who have survived invasion and dispossession and continue to maintain their identity, culture and Aboriginal rights.

We also recognise the value of continuing Aboriginal knowledge and cultural practice, which informs our understandings of history, culture and in supporting the development of the Tasmanian community.

There is so much in our history that we don’t speak about. Tasmania has a very long history and we should embrace every opportunity to give a voice to the stories, the people, the culture and to speak truthfully about what happened to Tasmanian Aboriginal people when the colonisation of Tasmania occurred.

The Labor party supports a Treaty.

Tasmania is unique in that it could be argued the negotiations to commence a Treaty have already begun. And they began a long time ago.

There is historical evidence of two agreements being made between the Crown and Tasmanian Aboriginal People. They are documented in the book, Friendly Mission, written in 1966. The first:

  • On 6th August 1831 at Little Musselroe Bay when George Robinson told Mannalargenna of the Coastal Plains Nation that he had been “commissioned by the Governor to inform them” if they would desist of the wonton attacks on the settlers they could return to their own districts… and have everything provided to them including protection
  • In November 1831 Robinson met with two leaders near Lake Echo – Montpelliatter of Big River Nation and Tongerlongter of Oyster Bay Nation – when “They were willing however to accept the offers of the government and they placed themselves under my protection accordingly”.

Sadly for our state and particularly for Tasmanian Aboriginal People, neither of these agreements were upheld by the Crown.

There was even a petition from Tasmanian Aboriginal people to Queen Victoria in 1846 in which they wrote: “Your petitioners humbly state to your Majesty that Mr Robinson made for us and with Colonel Arthur an agreement which we have not lost from our minds and since, we have made our part of it good.”

Despite all this. There is no Treaty in Tasmania and the agreement struck in 1831 has not been honoured by the Crown.

The tabling of this report, Pathway to Truth-Telling and Treaty Report is an important development for our state.

I want to acknowledge the work of Professor Kate Warner AC and Professor Tim McCormack, who are here today, and Tasmanian Aboriginal people who have contributed to this report, some who are here today.

Thank you for giving us this chance to get it right.

With the telling of stories from our history across our community there is likely to be pain, anger, remorse, guilt, shame as well as feelings of elation that despite attempted genocide, Tasmania’s first people continue to survive today.

Some people will feel confronted. Others will have their assumptions challenged. For some, truth telling will be a powerful and empowering experience.

There will need to be appropriate counselling providing to ensure that all Tasmanians who engage in truth telling can do so in a way that is supportive and culturally appropriate.

A Treaty will need to address many elements and also recognise intergeneration trauma continues to impact on Tasmania’s first people.

The trauma of separation from country, family and culture cannot easily be healed but we have an obligation as the Tasmanian Parliament, and for Government, to honour the offer of Treaty that was first outlined in 1831 and to make reparations for the wrongs of the past.

I know and the Labor party knows that the path forward may not be easy, but the Labor party is committed to Treaty.

We will take time to read this important report and listen to the voices of Aboriginal people.

And we commit to doing all we can to support this important work and we thank the Government for tabling this report today.

Rebecca White MP  
Labor Leader