An Historic Opportunity

March 29, 2011

The State's peak Aboriginal representative organisation, the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has congratulated Premier-elect Barry O'Farrell and his team on their election to office.

NSWALC Chairwoman, Bev Manton, has told Mr. O'Farrell by letter that the overwhelming mandate given to the Liberal-National Coalition by voters right across New South Wales provides them with an historic opportunity to set the State on a new path.

She says the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council looks forward to working with Mr. O'Farrell and his Government in the new Parliament to further advance the rights and aspirations of the Aboriginal people of New South Wales.

She has also thanked him for taking the time during the election campaign to meet with representatives of the NSWALC.

Ms. Manton says the NSWALC would not expect Aboriginal Affairs to be particularly high on Mr O'Farrell's immediate agenda as you set about forming your Government and putting your administrative arrangements in place.

"In our view, it should not be," she says.

"The land council system is self-funded and, largely, self-regulated, having undergone enormous reform in recent years.

"It is now working well within a new representative, fiscal and governance regime. It is busily implementing a new land dealings regime which brings together the development and rights agenda along with community benefit schemes.

"Our election document, Our Land, Our Rights, makes clear the recent cross party support for the Constitution Amendment Bill, and the principles enshrined in the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, built on an agreement in the last Parliament between the Labor Government and the Liberal-National Coalition," she says

"It commends the agreement of both parties to work together, and with non-government organisations and the community, to close the gap in Aboriginal disadvantage in areas such as health, welfare and education, and to further advance the rights and aspirations of Aboriginal people in New South Wales.

"NSWALC believes it is crucial this approach be carried into the new Parliament.

"Our election document, and public statements, have sought to ensure an incoming State Government, and indeed all MP's, will work to honour the ongoing statutory recognition of our rights to land, and ensuring an appropriate process to respectfully and rationally deal with Aboriginalculture and heritage.

"It also seeks to ensure they provide clear and unequivocal support for our rights to real and meaningful self-determination and to the ongoing representation by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.

"I have noted in my letter to Mr. O'Farrell his policy commitment during the campaign to return power to the people through their Parliament.

"I have also noted his statement that he wants to put people back at the centre of the decision making in NSW and allow them to contribute to the agenda of the Parliament.

"I'm sure I speak on behalf of all Aboriginal people in NSW in supporting this.

"The NSWALC and the land rights network were, and are, appreciative of the support we received from Liberal MP's, Brad Hazzard and Robyn Parker in the development and passage of the most recent amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.

"In my view the work of the NSWALC, and the land rights network, over the past three and a half years has vindicated their position in that debate.

"The memories of that period are still fresh in the minds of members of the land council network.

"As are the contributions from the Liberal-National party benches during the recent debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill, and the subsequent move by Mr. Hazzard to have the Aboriginal flag hung in the Legislative Assembly.

"We look forward to working with the O'Farrell Government, and all members of the new Parliament, over the next four years.