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Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Matters relating to constitutional change

GOLDSMITH, Mr Garry, Business Manager, Narungga Nations Aboriginal Corporation

WANGANEEN, Mr Klynton, Chief Executive Officer, Narungga Nations Aboriginal Corporation


CHAIR: Welcome. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Mr Wanganeen : We are both two weeks into the job.

CHAIR: Congratulations! Although the committee doesn't require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings in the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege. I now invite you to make a brief opening statement before we proceed to discussion.

Mr Wanganeen : The first thing I'd like to do is thank you for the invitation to be here and acknowledge that we're on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people, and we respect their cultural authority on these lands and the cultural authority of Aboriginal people visiting today. We will primarily talk about the Buthera agreement we negotiated with the South Australian government in relation to their proposed treaty arrangements which were discontinued by the incoming Marshall government after the elections. But we will talk more broadly and respond to questions that you may ask because what we are here for is the aspirations of our people to be self-managing and self-determining, with no strings attached, and to have an economic base so that we're not answerable to anyone except our people.

Mr Goldsmith : I totally agree with Klynton that we're here representing the Narungga Nations Aboriginal Corporation. We will be speaking to not only the agreement but also, again, the aspirations, like Klynton said, of our people and how we can contribute our opinions and our views for the recommendation for a First Nations voice within Parliament and also some of the other broader objectives for the Makarrata Commission—our opinions on that as well—and how we can contribute to that from a local perspective.

CHAIR: I'm keen to get to the agreement, but I just thought I'd ask a couple of quick questions about the Indigenous voice. What do you see as the purpose of the Indigenous voice? What problem do you think it's trying to solve and how will the Indigenous voice differ from other bodies that currently exist?

Mr Wanganeen : We've had many national bodies try to have a voice, but the problem with those bodies was they were reliant on the whims of the government and the government appropriation bills that would fund them. They didn't have any longevity. ATSIC was the longest standing representative voice, but ATSIC was more than a voice. It actually had programs that ensured funds got to communities. We have situations where NGOs and the Anglicares and Centacares of the world get more funding than our communities. That impacts on building their capacity by deleting their capacity at the local level, which we want to address. We've got the agreement with government, and we intend to work with NGOs to ensure that anything they're doing in our country they do with our involvement because co-designing and co-delivery is the only way that things will happen at the local level for our peoples.

CHAIR: This has been a theme that we've heard repeatedly in these hearings—the importance of properly and genuinely engaging people at the local level. Can you give me some examples of where that co-designing and co-delivery engagement has led to better economic or social policy outcomes for your people?

Mr Wanganeen : I can't give you specific examples of where it's happened, but one of the rationales for why we are going through this process is that, if you look at the federal level, the government had 200 years to get things right in how they interact with Aboriginal people. In South Australia, the Parliament of South Australia is 176 years old. They've had all that time to do things to improve the lives of Aboriginal people. It has been 51 years since the 1967 referendum that gave us the freedom to actually travel around our own country. With all of the failures of governments in the past—federal, state and local—the real answers and the real solutions to the issues impacting on Aboriginal people rests with Aboriginal people. If it's about us, we need to be involved in the discussion, the design, the delivery and the decisions that impact on us. Self-management and self-determination are not about being reliant on the whims of government and not about relying on non-government organisations. It's about us taking control of our lives.

CHAIR: Would you support, as others have done, the notion of local, regional and national voices, as it were? A lot of people have said that the issues really are in the local communities. They're the ones that affect people most and that's where they want to have a say in interfacing with government at a regional level.

Mr Wanganeen : I think we need the national level, but the national really needs to go on to the international level. Any national voice we have would have to be able to spread our voice to the international level.

CHAIR: By 'international', do you mean foreign countries or do you mean—

Mr Wanganeen : The United Nations. In terms of the national voice, a lot of national policies impact on Aboriginal people and there are opportunities at that level. At the state level, we really need to engage on a regular basis with state governments. We have to be able to work with the different agencies and we have to be in a position to make sure that the federal level and the state level are not duplicating and not competing. We need to make sure that, with NGOs, there is not a waste of time, effort and money by duplicating or fighting for bums on seats with Aboriginal people. We need to make sure that any planning to do programs actually takes into consideration the local conditions, the local opportunities and then how to do it. We can't do business as an Aboriginal business in Narungga country on other Aboriginal peoples country without the proper protocols. We’re not like mainstream business. If we've got a construction company, which we have, we can't just tender for business everywhere else around the state. We have to pay respect to other Aboriginal groups and look at their aspirations. A lot of governments don't understand the intricacies of how Aboriginal people need to work together and coexist. We've had that relationship for thousands upon thousands of years, and we have to honour that relationship.

Mr Goldsmith : One of the cultural protocols is one man doesn't speak for another man's country and therefore the national voice would need to be representative of all peoples countries and nations. How that is brought to a national level will need to be decided at a local level and a state level and then there needs to be a focus on how the national voice is put together, being representative of other people and other countries. Also, it would be the voice that would filter down to the local level through some sort of formal structure. What I'm thinking about for the First Nations voice is that it needs to have some authority with regard to decision-making. You would have heard this through many of your public hearings and also from the submissions that were put through to the joint select committee: the ability for Aboriginal people to make decisions that impact not only at the national level but also at the local level.

CHAIR: I have a final question before we move to the agreement side. Tell me something about the structure of the NNAC: how is it constituted, how are people chosen and what does it do?

Mr Wanganeen : The Narungga Nations Aboriginal Corporation was established as a native title body from our community, the Narungga community. Our traditional country is the York Peninsula in South Australia. Within our traditional area, we probably have more sea country than land country. We're constituted under their Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations as a native title body. We haven't progressed down the native title path to be able to get a consent determination to become a prescribed body corporate, but it's envisaged that, through the processes that we've put in place, we will go down that track. Our body is elected at an AGM that's held on country every year. We discuss the work that happened over the previous 12 months and our engagement with our native title services that are here in Adelaide—the South Australian Native Title Services—and work through it. When you look at our traditional country native title is probably claimable on about five per cent of the total landmass of the Yorke Peninsula, so we won't get too much benefit from native title on our land.

CHAIR: How do people get a vote at your AGM?

Mr Wanganeen : People get a vote by the simple fact that they can raise issues from the floor, or they can pre-organise it—

CHAIR: No. What gives them the right to vote?

Mr Wanganeen : They are of Narungga descent.

CHAIR: Do they have to be a member of the corporation too?

Mr Wanganeen : They become a member of the corporation and we provide the membership details to ORIC.

CHAIR: Can people who are Indigenous people from other Indigenous nations, who might be living on your land, vote in your elections or not?

Mr Wanganeen : No, they can't, in terms of the Narungga Nation Aboriginal Corporation. But we also have a regional authority called the Narungga Aboriginal Corporation Regional Authority, and part of the remit of that organisation is to look after and support Aboriginal people on the Yorke Peninsula, wherever they may come from.

CHAIR: I will say something about the agreement that you are striking with the South Australian government: what was the end point that you were hoping to get to with the agreement and what was the process for reaching as far as you got?

Mr Wanganeen : When we entered into that process, via the expression of interest of the South Australian government, the end point that we knew was that we were going to negotiate it in the short-term. We wanted to be involved in the process. We wanted to use it to get across to government our understanding of what a treaty was about, because we entered it to be involved in discussing a treaty with the South Australian government.

CHAIR: Sorry, I perhaps haven't made myself clear enough. What did you want as the end point of the treaty negotiations? What did you want to get from the treaty, as it were?

Mr Wanganeen : We wanted to get agreement from the government on how to do things around building our capacity, so that we can self-manage and self-determine our future to generate income through business development. We wanted our rights recognised by the government. We wanted the South Australian letters patent recognised by the government. And we wanted to make sure that we can actually build a positive future for our people that keeps them in touch with their culture and they are able to provide for their families. In our very first meeting with the commissioner who came over, Roger Thomas, and the minister, we said to those present, 'By entering into these discussions we want to enhance the lives of everyone living on Yorke Peninsula—the Narungga people, non-Aboriginal people and Aboriginal people who are visiting. We want to use this as a stepping stone to building the country that we think Australia should be'.

Mr Goldsmith : To add to that, with any sort of treaty—we're looking at international treaties—it is the certainty or ascertainment that we are sovereign people, or that we have our own nations and laws that we are governed by and we want the state to recognise those. We also wanted to look at the dispossession of our country—the industries that have taken, and continue to take, from our country—and be compensated for that. We also wanted to look at our representation on local and state government. And we also wanted to look at the ongoing continuation of looking after future generations through resource sharing from the continued taking from our country. These were some of the key issues that we thought the state were embarking on.

With the first discussions that we had with the minister at the time nothing was off the table. Little did we know, through the early conversations, that a lot of that was not going to be achieved. Therefore, as a nation that is limited with opportunities to generate income, we had to stay steadfast in reaching an agreement with the state for the benefit of our Narungga people. We also showed them our Narungga declaration, which we'll forward on to the commission, about how we intend to operate as Narungga people to continue to work for future generations and assert our sovereignty as Narungga people and the traditional owners of the Yorke Peninsula.

Mr Wanganeen : So recognition rights and the ability to negotiate and be involved in having a voice to the South Australian government, not just a tokenistic advisory role, but a real voice based on the outcomes of the negotiations. We want to be self-managing and self-determining.

Senator DODSON: Thank you for coming and for the information that you have provided. I want to get clarity around the agreement and around whether the state is honouring the agreement, having entered into it. It may have been a different government. The state entered that agreement with you. Is the current state government honouring the agreement with you?

Mr Wanganeen : In short, yes.

Senator DODSON: So there is still a process on foot where you can go through the log of claims, as it were, and try and settle those things?

Mr Wanganeen : We've already kick-started a process where the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division of Premier and Cabinet will actually kick-start a round of discussions with the chief executive officers based on the agreement. It'll be looking at the schedules. We're in the process of establishing our office and making all those connections. The state has honoured it and said that they will work with us on delivering on every aspect that we've put into this agreement. We are in the process of kick-starting it. While doing it, we've organised ourselves to deliver a presentation to the Department of The Prime Minister and Cabinet, Indigenous Business Australia, Indigenous Land Corporation. It's our intention to co-design and co-deliver everything in relation to the social centre which we have, but also we have a capacity-building schedule which talks about business development, economic participation, skill development and developing our own processes.

Senator DODSON: Are you dealing directly with the Premier or the minister for Aboriginal affairs? Who is the interface person from the government that's dealing with you?

Mr Wanganeen : We set up the interface to meet with the chief executive in the first instance while we're setting up a process to engage with the Premier, who is also the minister for Aboriginal affairs, and to begin that regular dialogue. We've had some informal chats with him, and he's keen to look at how we develop our program over the next few years. We have certainty for three years. Our role is to make sure that we generate income and have the proof that what we're doing is adding a benefit for our people and it will be measurable, so that we can continue the work that we've started well beyond our lives.

Senator DODSON: In your view, is the state open to dealing with other nations within the state?

Mr Wanganeen : Based on the limited discussions, I'm pretty sure that they are. We've already kick-started at least four parts of the schedule here with PIRSA, the health department, child protection and joint management with DEWNR if it's in a national park. We've already kick-started those things since we signed this agreement.

Mr Goldsmith : As for other nations, I'm not too sure what process the current government will undertake to engage with those nations. I think we were fortunate enough to be accepted to sit down and discuss where we were at at the time of treaty. Reaching the Buthera Agreement has given us the footing for us to have those conversations with the chief executives of each of the departments that are supported by the Premier in principle, and will honour that more formally when we have a discussion with him. But it has been said by their ministers that they will also agree to the content or the agreement and the deliverables within that and provide those resources and support. Our opportunity is to maximise the agreement and also look beyond the agreement at how we can work with and develop those relationships. One of the key things through the process was resetting the relationship with government by undertaking those negotiations. I think at this stage we are in the infancy stage to see whether it's working, but we will be working very hard to ensure that the benefits within the document are received by people at the local level. That would be our aim.

Mr Wanganeen : Probably the short answer to your first question about the honouring of the agreement is that the money is in our bank account.

Senator DODSON: Thank you both. I think you have a very heavy burden in terms of making sure that the state looks at treating other nations here in the way that they've dealt with you. Congratulations on your efforts.

CHAIR: Thank you very much for your attendance here today. If you've been asked to provide any additional information, could you please forward it to the secretariat by 16 July. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and you will have an opportunity to request corrections to transcription errors. Thank you, Mr Goldsmith and Mr Wanganeen.