SA Introduces Private Members Bill for Aboriginal Representative Body

Monday 11 July 2022 @ 2.02 p.m. | Judiciary, Legal Profession & Procedure | Legal Research

On 6 July 2022, the Aboriginal Representative Body Bill 2022 (SA) ('the Bill') was introduced as a Private Member's Bill to the South Australian House of Assembly by Mr Teague, the Shadow Attorney-General. Mr Teague said in his second reading speech that the proposed Bill is for an Act that would give "Aboriginal people a voice that will be heard by the Parliament of SA, the cabinet, state authorities and other persons and bodies".

Further, it seeks to:

  • establish a Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement;
  • establish an Aboriginal Representative Body;
  • repeal the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee Act 2003 (SA); and
  • make additional amendments to the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991 (SA).

Overview of the Proposed Legislation

The proposed legislation seeks to provide for definitions of "Aboriginal persons" and "Aboriginal elders" and additionally sets out how the Act, if the Bill is passed, is to interact with other SA legislation. It also proposes establishment of a "Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement" and proposes provisions regarding its operation. The Bill also contains provisions for a proposed "Aboriginal Representative Body" and its functions and operation.

Purposes of the Proposed Legislation

Clause 7 of the Bill describes the main purpose of of the legislation as being "to provide Aboriginal persons with a voice that will be heard by the Parliament of South Australia, the Cabinet, State authorities and other persons and bodies".

The Bill additionally seeks to:

  •  provide Aboriginal persons with an ongoing right to a seat at the table in respect of decision made by the State in decisions that affect Aboriginal persons;
  • improve the social, economic and cultural lives of all Aboriginal persons by providing formal advocacy and direct representation of their interests to the Parliament, Cabinet, and government;
  • encourage Aboriginal cultural values to be included at the forefront of SA parliamentary and government business; and
  • support Aboriginal persons to realise their aspirations in determination of their own future.

Principles Applying to the Operation of the Proposed Legislation

Clause 8 of the Bill proposes, the key principles applying to to the operation and administration of the proposed legislation, which are that:

  • each person to whom a function or power is delegated must be an Aboriginal person;
  • each person appointed by the Aboriginal Representative Body to a committee, or chosen as part of a selection panel convened by the Aboriginal Representative Body, must be an Aboriginal person;
  • the Aboriginal Representative Body and other bodies established under the proposed legislation must be able to determine their own procedures so that  those procedures are culturally appropriate;
  • membership of the Aboriginal Representative Body and other bodies established under the proposed legislation must be balanced and as inclusive of diversity as is reasonably practicable;
  • the Aboriginal Representative Body and other bodies established under the proposed legislation must strive to provide cultural legitimacy and representation through direct connections with local and regional Aboriginal communities throughout South Australia;
  • each person and body engaged in the operation and administration of the proposed legislation must work together in good faith and with mutual respect, acknowledging any mutual responsibilities; and
  • the Aboriginal Representative Body must act in a "timely, high-quality, independent and evidence-based manner".

The SA Government's Consultation

On 13 June 2022, the State's Attorney-General Kyam Maher commented in an ABC Article that the SA Government also had plans to start consultations with Indigenous peoples and communities regarding legislation that would establish an Indigenous voice in SA Parliament. 

On 4 July 2022, SA Commissioner for First Nations Voice Dale Agius' ('the Commissioner') appointment to lead this consultation was announced in a government media release. The Commissioner will begin consultations with Aboriginal groups and work towards introducing a Voice to Parliament, as part of implementation of the Uluru statement from the Heart, in the state. The state based changes are to be introduced as early as next year. The Commissioner will also be liaising with the new Federal Government in order to implement changes on a national level.

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