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Treaty a key goal for South Australia's first Aboriginal Attorney General

Giovanni Torre -
sa

Kyam Maher, South Australia's first Aboriginal Attorney General, has named treaty as a key aim in his new role.

Mr Maher said his journey to becoming the state's top law officer began when he was tasked with helping the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs set up their office in 20 years ago.

"I had reasonably good marks so I studied law without being sure what I wanted to do Then got a job as a lawyer with the Crown solicitors in Adelaide" he said.

"Labor was elected to government in 2002 and the new department people were looking for government lawyers to help them start their offices up.

"By luck and circumstances, I was allocated to the office of the Aboriginal Affairs minister."

Mr Maher said after about six months of working for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 2002, he decided that the way he wanted to make a difference was not as a lawyer but by working in Aboriginal Affairs in the intersection of policy and politics.

"I decided then it was my career goal to get into parliament and make a different for my Aboriginal community."

Mr Maher ultimately spent three years as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Premier Jay Weatherill's government, then held that portfolio throughout Labor's time in opposition, and now has returned to that office as well as becoming Attorney General.

It was in 2015, while Mr Weatherill was premier, that the government of South Australia established the $11 million Stolen Generations Reparations Scheme.

As Attorney General, Mr Maher sees Treaty as a vital goal, saying the portfolio is a broad area, a whole lot of things are priorities.

"I addressed a group of people from the department and talked about the intersection between the areas of Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs," he said.

"The laws in the colony of South Australia, and since, historically have done so much to dispossess and disadvantage Aboriginal people, and making those laws work for the benefit of Aboriginal people is what I see as a really unique opportunity and an important opportunity.

"We have a pretty bold agenda, including forming a state-based version of Voice, Treaty, Truth â€" of the Uluru statement."

Mr Maher said the previous Labor state government committed to the treaty process in 2016 and got "reasonably far" before losing office in 2018.

"We signed the Buthera Agreement with the Narungga nation of the Yorke Peninsula.

"It was, I think, the first agreement in the treaty process signed anywhere in Australia. At the time we were probably leading the nation in the treaty area.

"Then the Liberal government won in 2018 and the first decision they took in the area of Aboriginal Affairs was stopping and scrapping the treaty process.

"It is now about re-starting that process and re-engaging in South Australia."

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