What is a Treaty
The word Treaty can be used to describe a range of agreements between states, nations, governments or people.
Why is a Treaty needed in the Northern Territory
The Northern Territory Government respects the special position of Aboriginal people as the First Nation people of this country. Treaty or Treaties will set the foundation for future agreements between Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government. A Treaty will allow both parties to negotiate and agree on rights and responsibilities and establish a long lasting relationship.
How can a Treaty be given legal standing in the NT
There are a number of options available. A Treaty could be effected through:
- A contract between the NT Government and Aboriginal representative bodies;
- Legislation enacted by the NT Legislative Assembly;
- Legislation enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament. This would resolve any potential conflicts between the proposed treaty and other Commonwealth legislation;
- If the NT became a State, entrenchment in the new State Constitution or in the Commonwealth legislation granting Statehood; or
- Entrenchment in the Commonwealth Constitution.
Are there limits to a NT Treaty
Because the NT is a territory and not a state, its ability to self-govern is granted by the Northern Territory (Self-Government) Act 1978 (Cth). A NT Treaty cannot be inconsistent with what this Act allows.
Additionally, a NT Treaty cannot be inconsistent with any Commonwealth legislation. Critical pieces of Commonwealth legislation in the NT that will need to be considered carefully in this context are the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1978 (Cth) and the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).
Who makes a Treaty
Aboriginal people (either in total or as sub groups) from the Northern Territory will be one party to a Treaty. The Northern Territory Government will be the other party.
Discussions with Aboriginal people will determine how they are represented in the Treaty-making process. This discussion will be an integral part of developing and recommending the overall framework for Treaty negotiations.
Treaty or Treaties
Options include, but are not limited to:
A single Treaty
This could include one Treaty that a number of Aboriginal groups sign onto. A single Treaty can take into account the differences between Northern Territory Aboriginal peoples, however, it may be restricted in its ability to provide region specific outcomes
Overarching Treaty with separate side agreements
An umbrella Treaty would be a general agreement between the Northern Territory Government and Aboriginal people in the Territory concerning certain matters. Then under the umbrella Treaty, Aboriginal groups can negotiate separate agreements for additional or distinctive rights depending on their situation and regional needs.
A number of separate Treaties could be agreed between the Northern Territory Government and different Aboriginal groups in the Territory.
The Northern Territory Government would agree a standardised process, based on your feedback during negotiations, so that each Treaty contains similar outcomes, but considers localised need. We would also need to consider how different Treaties would be organised, for example by region or language group. And there would need to be a manageable amount of Treaties across the Territory.
What about Constitutional change
The Northern Territory Government supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
It is important that the national conversation continues. This can occur at the same time, and separately to, the Treaty process in the Northern Territory.
What happens if a Federal Treaty negotiations commence
In developing a framework for Treaty negotiations, we will keep abreast of national developments and will aim to ensure that as far as possible, a NT framework will not only dovetail into Commonwealth proposals, but both leads and enhances the national work.
In a recent article, Hobbs and Williams conclude that much of the current debate is misdirected in focusing upon the idea of a national treat and assert that as in Canada, we can expect negotiations to occur at predominantly this (the state and territory) level.
When will a Treaty be made
Developing a Treaty or Treaties will take time.
Engagement will be ongoing and it is important that we establish an inclusive process that supports respect; good faith; equality of standing; and cultural appropriateness across all stages of Treaty development
The first stage in developing a framework for Treaty negotiations will be to consult extensively with Aboriginal Territorians
We are committed to working together and taking the time needed to get this right.