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Friday, 16 December 1983
Page: 3944

Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —At the request of Senator Grimes, I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, he will move:

That the Senate-

noting that, in 1967, an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia voted to amend the Constitution so that this Parliament would have the power to legislate for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to the people of any race for whom it was deemed necessary to make special laws;

noting also that the change to the Constitution was made to enable the national Parliament to discharge a national responsibility to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia; and

bearing in mind that the Senate unanimously adopted the following resolution on 20 February 1975:

'That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people, and introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for the dispossession of their land':

(1) acknowledges that-

(a) the peoples whose descendants are now known as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia were the prior occupiers and original owners of Australia and had occupied the territory of Australia for many thousands of years in accordance with an Aboriginal system of laws which determined the relationship of Aboriginal responsibility for and to the land to which they belonged;

(b) from the time of arrival of representatives of King George III of England, and the subsequent conquest of the land and the subjugation of the Aboriginal people, no settlement was concluded between those representatives and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;

(c) as a result of the colonization of the land by Great Britain the rights of the original owners and prior occupiers were totally disregarded;

(d) since the arrival of European settlers in Australia, the original inhabitants have been dispersed and dispossessed with the result that their descendants are, as a group, the most disadvantaged in Australian society;

(e) this disadvantage persists, despite measures taken by State, Territory and Australian Governments, and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves, so that further measures by Australian society as a whole, and by the Parliament of the Commonwealth in particular, will be required to ensure real equality and advancement for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and

(2) considers, therefore, that the special measures which must be taken include action in the following main areas-

(a) The development of effective processes of consultation with Aboriginal people in order that the Aboriginal people may assert control of all aspects of their lives, having regard to the National Aboriginal Conference's responsibility to represent and present the views of Aboriginal and Islander people throughout Australia;

(b) the recognition by this Parliament of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's rights to land, in accordance with the following five basic principles:

(i) Aboriginal land to be held under inalienable freehold title;

(ii) protection of Aboriginal sites;

(iii) Aboriginal control in relation to mining on Aboriginal land;

(iv) access to mining royalty equivalents; and

(v) compensation for lost land to be negotiated;

(c) the continuation and acceleration of programs designed to ensure Aboriginal equality of opportunity in fields including health, education, housing, employment and welfare;

(d) the development of programs by all appropriate means to enable Aboriginal people to take part in economic activities for their own advantage;

(e) the promotion and protection of Aboriginal cultural identity, in ways considered appropriate by Aboriginals, including measures designed to:

(i) codify in writing Aboriginal languages, and assist in recording oral history;

(ii) preserve and protect Aboriginal sites and objects;

(iii) restore to Aboriginal people sacred objects relevant to their history, tradition and culture;

(iv) enhance the development of traditional or contemporary art forms; and

(v) provide interpreter services;

(f) restoration of the rights of Aboriginal families to raise and protect their own children by means of uniform laws and procedures in respect of child custody , fostering and adopting;

(g) respect for, and in appropriate circumstances, the application of, Aboriginal customary law and related practices as part of the law of Australia; and

(h) the development of improved community relations between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal Australians, which requires a growing understanding on both sides by means of:

(i) public education programs; and

(ii) fostering the study of Aboriginal history, language, anthropology and archaeology in Australian schools and institutions of learning; and

(3) is therefore of the view that-

(a) the Australian people will be truly free and united only when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of this nation are free of the distress, the poverty and the alienation that has been their lot; and

(b) the Bicentennial year of 1988 provides an immediate focus point towards which all Australians can work together to achieve the objectives set out in this resolution.