Premier says NSW prepared to negotiate for 'better deal' with Aboriginal groups
The New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, says her government is prepared to negotiate three priorities with the new coalition of peak Aboriginal organisations.
Her commitment follows a march and rally by around 1,000 Aboriginal people outside state parliament on Thursday.
The newly formed coalition of NSW land councils, medical, legal services, child and family services and education advocates represents thousands of Aboriginal people across the state.
“I’ve issued a challenge ... to identify three priorities,” the premier said.
“Let’s all decide what the priorities are and move forward. I want to see action. I want to see a focus, I want to see progress, I want to see you telling us what we need to do to support your communities.
“We’re not going to agree on everything, but let’s have a discussion about what’s most important to you and what we can do to improve the opportunities going into the future.”
About 1,000 people marched on state parliament, some having travelled several hours or overnight to be there, to demand “self-determination and a better deal” for Aboriginal people, and to reaffirm support for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Leading the march, the chairman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Roy Ah-See, told the crowd it was past time for politicians to listen.
“There’s unfinished business in this country and this state. We want you to buy into this, we want you to show leadership.”
“Walk with us, talk with us, listen to us. Our history is your history.”
Addressing the politicians he said: “You are burdened with a big responsibility to represent your constituents, which comes at a very high price, but you represent us too. We’re on this journey together.”
Ah-See jokingly said he thought he’d heard the premier had asked the coalition for five priorities.
“Roy says five, I say three,” Berejiklian said later. “Let me give you some advice. If you give government five things to do, we might do two or three but if you give us three things to do, we’ll do all three.”
The NSW opposition leader, Luke Foley, told Guardian Australia that Labor supports a treaty process in NSW.
“We’re extremely disappointed that Turnbull threw the Uluru statement into the rubbish bin,” Foley said. “Our commitment is to negotiating a treaty. This is where colonisation commenced, literally a stone’s throw from NSW Parliament House.
“I’ve listened to the voices of Aboriginal people across the state, and there’s a desire, a thirst for negotiating a new partnership with governments. Treaty, we believe, is the way forward.
“I’ve made that commitment, to negotiate a treaty or treaties with the state’s first peoples if we’re elected to government, but it would be great if both sides of parliament could commit to that.”
The biggest Aboriginal organisations in NSW marched on Parliament House on Thursday to demanded the government commit to a ‘new agenda’ for Aboriginal rights.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian: ‘I want to see you telling us what we need to do to support your communities.’