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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (19 June) . . Page.. 2038 ..

Namadgi National Park

MR KAINE: My question is to the Chief Minister. I noted with some concern that an agreement had been signed at the beginning of this month, a so-called management agreement for Namadgi National Park, between your government and a group of Aboriginal people. It is not that I have a problem in principle with that agreement, but I must say that I do have some concern about the way that it was apparently negotiated and signed off. What steps did you take to ensure that the interests of all members of the Ngunnawal people were fairly represented in this agreement? If there was not agreement by all of the Ngunnawal, why did you proceed with an agreement that excludes some of them? Thirdly, are all of the individuals with whom you did negotiate in the ACT, or in fact are some of them actually resident in New South Wales while many Aboriginal residents in the ACT were excluded?

MR HUMPHRIES: I thank Mr Kaine for that question. First of all, let me make it very clear that no member of the Ngunnawal community who can establish that they are a member of that community, and I will go on to indicate what I mean by that in a moment, is excluded from this offer. The signing of this agreement with representatives of the Ngunnawal people does not indicate or suggest in any way that others who are outside this agreement at this stage cannot enter the agreement at some point in the future and obtain exactly the same benefits under that agreement. I emphatically reject the suggestion that anybody has been excluded from either this process or from the benefits, such as they are, which are inherent in the agreement which we have signed. Nobody has been excluded.

What I mean by the phrase "members of the Ngunnawal" is a matter of some contention. Members will be aware that there was a genealogy prepared which identified those people who could be regarded as descendants of the last people known to have been Ngunnawal, resident and present in the ACT region shortly after the time of white occupation of this part of New South Wales, as it then was. There is some considerable debate between members of the Ngunnawal community about who is properly considered to be a member of the Ngunnawal community and who is not. I note with regret that that debate flared only yesterday at the announcement of the winner of the competition to design Reconciliation Place.

Mr Speaker, that difference of view has been a feature of Aboriginal activity in the ACT for some time. I deeply regret that, as I know other members of this place do, but the fact of that disagreement should not be a barrier to us attempting to advance the question of Aboriginal dispossession in this territory. The government's decision was that it would make an offer of leasehold, which is effectively the greatest title in land that we can confer or can offer, to Ngunnawal people who chose to accept the offer on the basis that the offer would be non-exclusive, that it would permit others to join at a later stage if they could establish their credentials to do so, and would not compromise the reality of Namagdi National Park continuing to be a national park.

My capacity to cater for the interests of all members of the Ngunnawal community was addressed by virtue of leaving the agreement as an open agreement which can be added to or joined up to later on. It does not exclude anybody who can establish their credentials to be part of the agreement.

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