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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 1 Hansard (11 February) . .

Page.. 286..

courts and tribunals when it comes to the application of that right and their day-to-day decision-making around access to education. That is a very important reform.

The second change is to establish formal recognition of the prior ownership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when it comes to this land. This is a very important change. It is consistent with the approach adopted in the Victorian charter of human rights and responsibilities, and it allows us to provide for acknowledgement of the distinct spiritual, material and economic relationships that Indigenous people have with the land and waters and other resources under their traditional law and custom. It is a step that has been endorsed and welcomed, developed in concert with the ACT elected body; I thank them for the work they have done with the government to bring us to this point.

Clearly, this was the matter that had the most concern for the committee. Whilst I do not doubt that all of the committee felt that there was value in this reform, they asked some questions around issues that related to native title and the application of native title law in the territory. I am pleased to say that I feel the government has been able to address those matters during the inquiry process, and that we have made clear, to the extent that we are able to, our understanding of the application of native title law here in the ACT.

But this change today is not about changing the legal framework that deals with arbitration in relation to a native title claim. Instead, it is about saying that in our Human Rights Act we should recognise the distinct and unique cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the importance of relationship to country. It is restating, reaffirming and re-enforcing the tone and tenor of the relationship between the government, the elected representatives in this place, and the traditional custodians, the traditional owners of this country, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is about saying that we want to strengthen that partnership further, that we want to provide opportunities for further collaboration, and that we want to recognise in the territory statute books that there is provision and recognition of the enduring and ancient connection that Indigenous people have had with this land for millennia.

I would like to thank the committee for their work and their report on the bill. I urge members to support its passage today. On a closing note, I would like to table a revised explanatory statement to this bill, which deals with some of the matters that the committee recommended be dealt with in its inquiry on the bill.

MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (4.35): The opposition will be supporting the bill. The process has been a good one. The initial bill was tabled by the Attorney-General in March last year; it came forward for debate in May, and there have been a number of issues raised through the scrutiny of bills process. After debate, the bill was referred for inquiry by the JACS committee, which has done its job. It presented a report after a reasonably brief inquiry. I think it added to the clarification around some matters that had been raised and, as the Attorney-General alluded to, specifically the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT.

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