Our Land, Our Rights

March 22, 2011

As all LALC members would be aware, NSW faces a change of Government for the first time in 16 years at the State Election this Saturday.

The Liberal-National Coalition, led by Barry O'Farrell, is expected to be elected with a thumping majority in the Legislative Assembly and may even hold the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has produced the attached policy document, Our Land, Our Rights, which sets out a range of measures we wish to see supported by an incoming Government and all MP's in the new Parliament.

The NSWALC unanimously endorsed the document at its meeting in Sydney last week.

It is our view the adoption of the measures outlined in the document will further cement the rightful place of this State's First Nations peoples, and their duly elected representative organisations, within the political, economic and social fabric of New South Wales.

NSWALC is asking all of those elected on Saturday to work with the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, Local Aboriginal Land Councils, and other peak Aboriginal organisations, to implement these measures during the next term of the NSW Parliament.

The policy positions seek to build upon the support and commitment publicly expressed by all major and minor political parties during sessions of the 54th NSW Parliament for the recognition of the spiritual, social, cultural and economic significance of land to the first nations of New South Wales.

That support was best expressed on all sides of the NSW Parliament during debate on the passage of the Constitution Amendment (Recognition of Aboriginal People) Bill.

The bipartisan support for this bill ensured its passage through the parliament, and subsequent assent, with minimal public controversy.

Importantly, it extended the Parliament's recognition of the preamble contained in the landmark Aboriginal Land Rights Act (1983) to the introduction to the Constitution, the State's founding document.

Apart from specific policy initiatives the document has another purpose.

It is designed to assist all members of the NSW Parliament to gain a much clearer understanding of the land rights system.

It also seeks to demonstrate the will of NSWALC, and Local Aboriginal Land Councils, to work with all tiers of government to improve the health and well-being of Aboriginal people in NSW, mindful of the current political, statutory, and financial constraints placed upon us.

We earnestly hope all will take the time to read it.

And, more importantly, if elected, to act upon it.

As you will see from the document, it is the NSWALC's view that the recognition contained in both the preamble to the Constitution, and the preamble to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, should be joined by a Statement of First Principles for First Nations.

The support of the 55th Parliament for such a Statement would re-assert its will to continue to work to advance the rights of our people. 

Our Land, Our Rights seeks to highlight all of the key areas of concern within the land rights system and how we want to position the network as we move forward.

I commend the document, and our accompanying media statement, to all LALC members

Bev Manton