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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (26 May) . . Page.. 557 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Mr Speaker, two native title claims covering areas of the ACT have already been lodged and accepted by the National Native Title Tribunal. These claims were made by Mr Nurri Arnold Williams and Mr Phillip Carroll. A third group led by Mrs Agnes Shea has applied to be a party to both of those claims. Now a third claim has been lodged by the Bell family which covers the areas of Parliament House and the High Court. This claim is currently being considered by the chair of the Native Title Tribunal, Mr Justice French.

Members should be aware that the genealogy prepared to support the Williams claim has not been accepted by the other parties and the need for further research has been identified. To address claims made by the Bell and Carroll groups, and I think the Shea group as well, that they have not been given adequate resources to pursue their respective claims, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission has funded a barrister to represent them. As we know, barristers are very expensive. I am also pleased to report that the tribunal, the barristers for all the groups involved in the claims, and Dr Nicolas Peterson, senior lecturer at the ANU Anthropology Department, have now agreed upon a methodology to develop an acceptable genealogy report for all of the groups. Mr Speaker, this is a real breakthrough. This methodology involves reviewing the current genealogy submitted for the Williams claim, identifying and researching any gaps and consulting all relevant families.

To this end, Mr Speaker, the Government has allocated $20,000 to fund this research, which is expected to be completed by the end of July. The Native Title Tribunal and this Government hope that from this work one combined claim will be developed that covers the interests of all claimants. I am confident that everyone in this Assembly would support that as well. This Government, as I have said on numerous occasions, is committed to negotiating a local agreement with all of the Ngunnawal peoples. Once the genealogical research is complete I am extremely hopeful that negotiations can recommence.

I am disappointed, as I am sure all members are, that it has taken this long to reach this point; but we are now closer than ever to reaching a consensus viewpoint, and that has to be good news for everybody involved. As I have said many times before, the less we have to do with lawyers and the less money is tied up on expensive legal manoeuvring, the better it is for the Government, and for everyone involved. If we can come up with an agreed position on the genealogy and on the way ahead and can conclude a model regional agreement, we will be able to show the rest of Australia just how this is done without tying the issue up in court for many years.

Mr Speaker, let me just say, finally, that throughout this process we have endeavoured to keep members informed about the progress towards achieving a native title agreement here in the ACT. I am sure that all members of the Assembly would support us in this. I can assure the Assembly that as significant events occur we will keep everybody updated.

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