South Australia - Treaty Proposal

Download a copy of the proposed Treaty given to Jay Weatherill as South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in March 2007 by the Aboriginal Alliance Coalition Movement after his Proclamation Day 2006 speech upholding the Letters Patent.
SA Treaty Proposal Word - SA Treaty Proposal pdf
Drafted by the Roma Mitchell Community Legal Centre Inc
Patrick ByrtHuman Rights Convenor
Patrick Byrt

The Roma Mitchell Human Rights Volunteer Service presents a Draft Proposal aimed at stimulating the necessary discussions and negotiations at both community and government levels in an attempt to definitively resolve the historical conflict between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous South Australians. This Draft Proposal builds upon the experiences of Indigenous peoples in Canada in negotiating a treaty ensuring them self-determination and self-government, albeit recognising that their initial juridical position by which they were able to negotiate with the Canadian government is by no means analogous to that of Aboriginal Australians.

The cornerstone of the Draft Proposal is to create a federal state (United South Australia) with two provinces who are politically equal before the law and can be neither undone by the will of Parliament, nor subjected to a hierarchy other than the one inherent in a system of federal government. This political change envisages equality and co-operation between the future Aboriginal and non-Indigenous provinces of South Australia. This Draft Proposal outlines the steps necessary to empower Aboriginal and non-Indigenous South Australians to finally resolve the question of coexistence. The Draft Proposal depends hugely upon the good-will, co-operation and negotiations between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous Australians of all levels and professions, to re-visit and resolve the issue of the nature of the political relationship between them.

The proposed Draft Constitution for a new United South Australia with two constituent provinces borrows heavily from both the mechanisms already in place in the Constitution of South Australia, as well as an Agreement put forward by Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations (1996 – 2006), who sought to unite Cyprus, a conflicted nation divided into two distinct populations (Greek and Turk), a situation not dissimilar from the present status of South Australia. The idea behind Annan's proposal is that with negotiation, it is possible to unite two distinct groups into a federal model. It must be noted that the failure of the Annan proposal in 2004 at referendum, is by no means an inherent fault of the machinery of the proposal framework, bur rather a result of breakdown of the communications between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, who failed to agree on many aspects of the negotiations.

Recognising that the Draft Proposal at first glance appears revolutionary, the RMHRVS counters that it only advocates what has already been enacted in other former British colonies and would do no more than bring the rights of Aboriginal Australians in line with their counterparts overseas. The Draft Proposal in no way advocates an Aboriginal "secession"; rather it advocates reform of the Constitutional foundation of South Australia to recognise that British common-law was applied by default to the Aboriginal population at the time of founding, without their express consent. Today's situation is merely the continuation of this "colonial supposition" that the Aboriginal peoples are better off under "white" rule. The Draft Proposal aims to remedy this situation by allowing Aboriginal people to take charge of matters in respect of a wide range of so-called traditional State powers, and to self-administer Aboriginal programs and services, particularly in respect of culture, heritage, education, economic situation, as well as other areas which they may consider to be of interest, by means of their own Aboriginal government body.

The Draft Proposal starts with Part 1 discussing previous Aboriginal attempts at advocating treaties or similar judicial change in order to empower Aboriginal people to take their futures into their own hands by means of self-government. In light of the Australian government's failure to respond to calls for a treaty, Part 1 outlines several government attempts to advocate Aboriginal rights, and while recognising their limited success, we outline why they have all ultimately failed to produce Aboriginal self-empowerment. Part 2 continues to describe why Australia needs to enact a treaty or constitutional change, before moving on to outline the main precepts of the Proposal in Part 3. Part 4 consists of the very substance of the Proposal and provides the comprehensive framework towards achieving the self-governance of Aboriginal people in South Australia.