SA appoints commissioner to lead Indigenous treaty process

Updated February 28, 2017 15:29:55

South Australia's independent treaty commissioner will be senior Aboriginal community leader Roger Thomas, who will draft a proposed framework after negotiations with Indigenous communities.

Dr Thomas, a Kokatha and Mirning man, will lead consultation between Indigenous South Australians and the State Government on a framework for a treaty.

He said he was expecting a diverse array of opinions, and it was important people got to have their say.

"The role of the commissioner is to go and to listen and to record all of those conversations," he said.

"It is not for us to go there and to make any judgments about what those conversations are, but to report back to government."

Last year, the State Government set aside $4.4 million to be spent over five years, to support the treaty process and someone to lead it.

The treaty commissioner appointment is for three years and an office of the commissioner will be established.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said treaty negotiations were "historic" and "something that no state or the Commonwealth has done yet".

"Most of those countries that we compare ourselves to, like New Zealand or Canada or the US, at the time of colonisation entered into treaties with first nations people — that did not happen in Australia," he said.

"We are going back and doing something that should have been done a couple of centuries ago."

The framework is due to be handed to the Government in the middle of 2017, and the State Government previously indicated it hoped to finalise the process by the end of this year.

It is not yet clear what treaties specifically would cover or whether they would provide for any compensation, but South Australian Indigenous leaders said the process would set a positive course for the future.

Dr Thomas has held posts on state, national and international advisory committees, and is an inaugural professor of Indigenous engagement at the University of Adelaide.

The State Government previously indicated it hoped to finalise the process by the end of this year.

Victoria was the first state to start discussing a treaty with Indigenous people when it began consultations early in 2016.

Topics:indigenous-policy, government-and-politics, states-and-territories, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, law-crime-and-justice, adelaide-5000, sa

First posted February 28, 2017 13:00:59

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