Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

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A Bill for an Act to further advance reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians, by establishing processes to identify, monitor, negotiate and resolve unresolved issues for reconciliation, and for related purposes
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Introduced Senate 13 Feb 2002

Reconciliation Bill 2001 [2002]
First Reading

1998-1999-2000-2001

The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia

THE SENATE

Presented and read a first time

Reconciliation Bill 2001

No. , 2001

(Senator Ridgeway)

A Bill for an Act to further advance reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians, by establishing processes to identify, monitor, negotiate and resolve unresolved issues for reconciliation, and for related purposes

Contents

Part 1--Preliminary       3

1       Short title 3

2       Commencement 3

3       Interpretation 3

4       Objects 4

Part 2--Recognition of the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples       6

5       The Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation 6

Part 3--A process to identify and resolve issues for reconciliation       7

6       A National Reconciliation Convention 7

7       The functions of a National Reconciliation Convention 7

Part 4--A negotiation and agreement process to resolve issues for reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Government       9

8       A negotiation process to facilitate resolution of reconciliation matters 9

9       Protocols 9

Part 5--A process for reporting on reconciliation       11

Division 1--Reports       11

10       Reports by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner 11

11       Three-Yearly Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation 11

12       Tabling of the National Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation 12

Division 2--Monitoring the progress toward reconciliation       13

13       Parliamentary Joint Committee on Reconciliation 13

14       Powers and proceedings of Committee 13

15       Duties of Committee 14

Schedule 1--The Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation       16

A Bill for an Act to further advance reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians, by establishing processes to identify, monitor, negotiate and resolve unresolved issues for reconciliation, and for related purposes

Preamble

        Because:

       (a) Australia has been occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from time immemorial, before the assertion of British sovereignty; and

       (b) many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffered dispossession and dispersal from their traditional lands and waters by the Crown without compensation and without lasting and equitable agreement on the use of those lands and waters; and

       (c) many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suffered separation from their families under government policies now discredited; and

       (d) as a consequence of these and subsequent deprivations, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have become, as a group, the most disadvantaged in Australian society; and

       (e) there has been no formal process of negotiation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Government to achieve reconciliation; and

       (f) it is desirable and beneficial for all Australians that there be such reconciliation; and

       (g) the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation,

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through consultation with the people of Australia, developed the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and the National Strategies to advance reconciliation and recommended in its final report that there be legislation to continue the reconciliation process and realise the principles and goals set out in those documents; and

       (h) reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians is an ongoing process that requires all matters identified as unresolved issues for reconciliation to be addressed; and

       (i) reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians can be achieved with the development of partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the wider community to ensure the full recognition and respect for the place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the life of the nation; and

       (j) reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians can be achieved with solutions that are developed cooperatively and implemented in conjunction with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, the wider Australian community, and all levels of government; and

       (k) it is the intention of the people of Australia to further the progress toward reconciliation and rectify the consequences of past injustices to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples receive the full recognition and status within the Australian nation to which history, their prior occupation and their rich and diverse culture fully entitle them to aspire; and

       (l) it is the wish of the Australian people that reconciliation be achieved through a real and lasting settlement reached with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Parliament of Australia therefore enacts:

Part 1--Preliminary

1 Short title
        This Act may be cited as the Reconciliation Act 2001.

2 Commencement
        This Act commences on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.

3 Interpretation
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears:

ATSIC means the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission appointed under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act 1989.

Commissioner means the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, appointed under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation is the Council established under the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act 1991.

human rights means the rights and freedoms recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and such other instruments relating to human rights as the Commissioner considers relevant.

HREOC means the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, established under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

reconciliation refers to the achievement of a united Australia which respects this land of ours, values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and provides justice and equity for all.

unresolved issues for reconciliation means any issue, whether already identified or identified through the processes of this Act, that is an impediment to achieving reconciliation until it is addressed, including but not limited to the following:

       (a) the recognition of the right to equality;

       (b) the protection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, heritage and intellectual property;

       (c) the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customary law;

       (d) a comprehensive agreements process for the settlement of native title and other land claims;


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       (e) regional autonomy; and

       (f) constitutional recognition.

4 Objects
        The objects of this Act are to:

       (a) further advance reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and all other Australians; and

       (b) acknowledge the progress towards reconciliation and recognise that there are unresolved issues that impede the achievement of reconciliation; and

       (c) recognise the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia's first peoples; and

       (d) establish processes to identify and resolve the unresolved issues for reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian community; and

       (e) initiate a negotiation process to resolve unresolved issues for reconciliation at the national level, that will result in an agreement or treaty which will unite all Australians; and

       (f) establish a process for reporting on the nation's future progress toward reconciliation.

Part 2--Recognition of the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

5 The Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation
       (1) The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are recognised as the first peoples of Australia.

       (2) The Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation in Schedule 1 is hereby recognised.

Part 3--A process to identify and resolve issues for reconciliation

6 A National Reconciliation Convention
       (1) ATSIC must use its best endeavours to ensure that a National Reconciliation Convention is held within one year after the commencement of this Act and every 3 years for 12 years after the first Convention is held.

       (2) Participation in a National Reconciliation Convention is to be determined by:

       (a) the Minister; and

       (b) a body chosen by the Minister as representative of the wider community in relation to reconciliation; and

       (c) ATSIC.

       (3) In determining who should attend a National Reconciliation Convention, the entities referred to in subsection (2) must have regard to these criteria:

       (a) at least 50% of delegates must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people; and

       (b) the entire composition of the delegates must show fair representation of the Australian population by gender and geographical location.

       (4) The agenda at a National Reconciliation Convention must be negotiated between:

       (a) the Minister; and

       (b) a body chosen by the Minister as representative of the wider community in relation to reconciliation; and

       (c) ATSIC;

having regard to the functions of the Convention under section 7.

7 The functions of a National Reconciliation Convention
       (1) The functions of a National Reconciliation Convention are to:

       (a) discuss reports and consultations carried out in preparation for the Convention; and

       (b) report on and discuss implementation of recommendations from any previous Convention; and

       (c) identify and prioritise unresolved issues for reconciliation for discussion and action; and

       (d) debate and recommend appropriate action to resolve unresolved issues for reconciliation identified under paragraph (c).

       (2) In carrying out the functions under subsection

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(1), delegates to a National Reconciliation Convention must have regard to events and issues at the local, regional, State and Territory level.

       (3) In identifying issues for discussion and action, delegates must have regard to, but are not limited by:

       (a) issues identified in the work of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation; and

       (b) issues identified by the Minister, the body chosen by the Minister under paragraph 6(2)(b) as representative of the wider community in relation to reconciliation, and ATSIC; and

       (c) issues related to or arising from national negotiations or agreements between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians; and

       (d) issues related to or arising from State, Territory, regional or local negotiations or agreements between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians; and

       (e) matters arising from reports prepared under Division 1 of Part 5; and

       (f) any other issue considered relevant to the progress of reconciliation.

Part 4--A negotiation and agreement process to resolve issues for reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Government

8 A negotiation process to facilitate resolution of reconciliation matters
       (1) The Prime Minister must immediately begin negotiations with ATSIC to develop a process which will unite all Australians by way of an agreement or treaty through which the unresolved issues for reconciliation can be resolved.

       (2) The negotiation process developed under subsection (1) must:

       (a) identify the parties to be involved; and

       (b) provide for negotiations to be undertaken having regard to the work of the National Conventions under Part 3; and

       (c) be in place by 31 December 2001, or as soon as practicable thereafter using the best endeavours of the Prime Minister and ATSIC.

9 Protocols
        The negotiation processes developed and carried out under section 8 must be guided by a set of principles to be decided by the parties to negotiation, including:

       (a) dealing in good faith, and with a view to reaching agreement; and

       (b) mutual recognition and respect, including:

       (i) recognition of the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and protection of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; and

       (ii) recognition of government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander protocols; and

       (c) equitable and sufficient provision of resources to ensure effective participation by all parties in negotiations; and

       (d) other matters that are agreed between the parties.

Part 5--A process for reporting on reconciliation

Division 1--Reports

10 Reports by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
       (1) The Commissioner must include in the report prepared under section 46C of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 a specific reference to:

       (a) the operation of this Act; and

       (b) the national progress toward reconciliation in relation to the exercise and enjoyment of human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

       (2) In carrying out the functions under this section, the Commissioner may exercise all of the powers of HREOC and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

11 Three-Yearly Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation

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       (1) As soon as practicable after each third anniversary of the commencement of this Act, the Minister must appoint an independent body or taskforce to prepare and submit to the Minister a National Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation.

       (2) Matters to be addressed in the National Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation may include:

       (a) relevant indicators of community and individual wellbeing, including statistics, agreed benchmarks and other indicators in relation to mortality, health, housing, education, employment, poverty, representation in the criminal justice system, community development, political participation, and any other matter that may indicate progress in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' enjoyment of human rights; and

       (b) matters identified in any reports commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments; and

       (c) the implementation of the recommendations contained in the following national strategies developed by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation:

       (i) National Strategy to Sustain the Reconciliation Process;

       (ii) National Strategy to Promote Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Rights;

       (iii) National Strategy to Overcome Disadvantage;

       (iv) National Strategy for Economic Independence; and

       (d) matters identified in the reports of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner under section 10; and

       (e) matters identified at the National Reconciliation Conventions held under Part 3; and

       (f) the progress of negotiations under Part 4; and

       (g) any other matter relevant to the progress of reconciliation.

12 Tabling of the National Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation
        The Minister must cause a copy of the National Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days of that House after its receipt by the Minister.

Division 2--Monitoring the progress toward reconciliation

13 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Reconciliation
       (1) As soon as practicable after the commencement of this Act and after the commencement of the first session of each Parliament, a joint committee of members of the Parliament, to be known as the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Reconciliation, must be appointed.

       (2) The Parliamentary Joint Committee must consist of at least 10 members, of whom:

       (a) 5 must be senators appointed by the Senate; and

       (b) 5 must be members of the House of Representatives appointed by that House.

       (3) The appointment of members by a House must be in accordance with that House's practice relating to the appointment of members of that House to serve on joint select committees of both Houses.

       (4) A member ceases to hold office if he or she ceases to be a member of the House by which he or she was appointed.

       (5) A member appointed by the Senate may resign his or her office by writing signed and delivered to the President of the Senate.

       (6) A member appointed by the House of Representatives may resign his or her office by writing signed and delivered to the Speaker of that House.

       (7) A House may appoint one of its members to fill a vacancy among the members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee appointed by that House.

14 Powers and proceedings of Committee
        All matters relating to the Parliamentary Joint Committee's powers and proceedings must be determined by resolution of both Houses.


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15 Duties of Committee
        The Parliamentary Joint Committee's duties are:

       (a) to consult extensively about the implementation and operation of this Act with:

       (i) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and

       (ii) ATSIC and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative organisations as appropriate; and

       (iii) Commonwealth, State, Territory and local governments; and

       (v) other appropriate persons and bodies; and

       (b) to report from time to time to both Houses on the implementation and operation of this Act; and

       (c) to examine each yearly report that is prepared by the Commissioner referred to in section 10 and of which a copy has been laid before a House, and to report to both Houses on matters:

       (i) that appear in, or arise out of, those reports; and

       (ii) to which, in the Committee's opinion, the Parliament's attention should be directed; and

       (d) to examine each Three-Yearly National Report on the Progress Toward Reconciliation that is prepared under section 11 and to report to both Houses on matters:

       (i) that appear in, or arise out of, that Three-Yearly Report; and

       (ii) to which, in the Parliamentary Joint Committee's opinion, the Parliament's attention should be directed; and

       (e) to examine the recommendations of each National Reconciliation Convention held under Part 3 and to report to both Houses on matters:

       (i) that appear in, or arise out of, those recommendations; and

       (ii) to which, in the Parliamentary Joint Committee's opinion, the Parliament's attention should be directed; and

       (f) from time to time, to inquire into and report to both Houses on:

       (i) the progress toward reconciliation; and

       (ii) the implementation of the recommendations contained in the final report produced by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation; and

       (iii) matters referred by either House..

Schedule 1--The Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation

Note:       See section 5.

We, the peoples of Australia, of many origins as we are, make a commitment to go on together in a spirit of reconciliation.

We value the unique status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original owners and custodians of lands and waters.

We recognise this land and its waters were settled as colonies without treaty or consent.

Reaffirming the human rights of all Australians, we respect and recognise continuing customary laws, beliefs and traditions.

Through understanding the spiritual relationship between the land and its first peoples, we share our future and live in harmony.

Our nation must have the courage to own the truth, to heal the wounds of its past so that we can move on together at peace with ourselves.

Reconciliation must live in the hearts and minds of all Australians. Many steps have been taken, many steps remain as we learn our shared histories.

As we walk the journey of healing, one part of the nation apologises and expresses its sorrow and sincere regret for the injustices of the past, so the other part accepts the apologies and forgives.

We desire a future where all Australians enjoy their rights, accept their responsibilities, and have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

And so, we pledge ourselves to stop injustice, overcome disadvantage, and respect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the right to self-determination within the life of the nation.

Our hope is for a united Australia that respects this land of ours; values the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage; and provides justice and equity for all.