Aboriginal groups call for guaranteed seats in Tasmanian House of Assembly

Michael Mansell
Michael Mansell

Tasmanian aboriginal groups will make a submission for the House of Assembly to guarantee two seats for aboriginal members.

The Select Committee on the House of Assembly Restoration Bill, which seeks to restore a 35 seat house, was appointed in late 2018, and the committee is set to report next month.

In a submission to the committee on Monday the groups proposed the clause of the constitution relating to the number of members in the House of Assembly be altered to provide two new aboriginal seats.

The submission was made jointly by the Elders Council of Tasmania Aboriginal Corporation, the Cape Barren Island Aboriginal Association, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania.

Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O'Connor is the chair of the Select Committee.

Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O'Connor is the chair of the Select Committee.

"The constitution should provide for two Aboriginals to be elected by Aborigines from a single state-wide electorate," the submission read.

"Under this proposal, Aboriginals could elect to have their names entered on the State Aboriginal electoral roll or the general electorate division roll within which they reside, but not both.

"The whole of the state would constitute the Tasmanian Aboriginal electorate."

The submission reads that despite almost 200 years of formal political representation in Tasmania, the Tasmanian aboriginal people have never had the chance to elect an aboriginal person to represent them.

"At 4.6 % of the total Tasmanian population, Tasmania has the highest proportion of Aboriginals in the country behind the NT.

"In the Northern Territory, electorate divisions are drawn up to have a fair chance of electing their own people to parliament."

Tasmanian Land Council spokseman Michael Mansell said the move would be an Australian first.

"If successful, Tasmania will be the first State to guarantee an Aboriginal voice in the parliament," Mr Mansell said.

"New Zealand has done it for 150 years. The State of Maine in the US has 3 seats for Indians. It's time for Tasmania to catch up and lead the rest of Australia.

"The change would enable Aborigines to speak for the dispossessed and powerless and participate in governing Tasmania."

The submission will be made to the Select Committee on House of Assembly Restoration Bill in parliament at 3pm on Monday.