With the polls opening in Tasmania on Saturday for the State election and tensions high after a tumultuous election campaign, NIT has pulled together the policies from the major parties affecting Indigenous people.
Whilst no policies have been announced by the incumbent Liberal Government explicitly in relation to Indigenous issues in the lead up to this election, the Tasmanian Liberals have considerable policies on issues disproportionately affecting Indigenous Tasmanians, including employment, housing, and mental health and wellbeing.
The Tasmanian Liberals, currently led by Premier Peter Gutwein, have promised the creation of a Job Ready Fund to aid job-seekers in gaining work through new Job Hubs in regional Tasmania.
There are also investments to be made in mental health and wellbeing for all ages, as well as over $615 million in funding for social and affordable housing to curb homelessness in the State.
According to Primary Health Tasmania, Indigenous people in Tasmania currently have a life expectancy 15-20 years lower than other Tasmanians. Should a Liberal Government deliver on these election promises, living standards of not only Indigenous Tasmanians but all Tasmanians should improve.
The Tasmanian Liberals did not respond to NIT’s request for policy details by time of publication.
Led by Opposition Leader Rebecca White, Tasmanian Labor’s Aboriginal Affairs policies centre on four key themes: land returns, Treaty, truth-telling and Aboriginal heritage.
Their aim to achieve these objectives, if elected, will come through a restoration of the Aboriginal Affairs Department to the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Further to this, Labor plans to establish a Treaty Unit to engage the community to build a consensus on a model for a Treaty and truth-telling process.
Labor is also promising to provide funding to Indigenous social enterprises, including the Elders Council in Launceston. In protecting wildlife and heritage, Labor has plans to develop Aboriginal cultural fisheries.
It must also be noted that within Tasmanian Labor’s ranks, Jennifer Houston is running to be re-elected for the seat of Bass. Houston, a Tasmanian Aboriginal woman, is the only Aboriginal candidate standing for election.
The Greens have not made publicly available many of their directly Indigenous-related policies, yet several of their policies revolve around the maintenance of land and the environment within the context of respecting and preserving Indigenous cultural heritage.
In particular, the Tasmanian Greens hope to develop a proposal to heritage list Mt Wellington (kunanyi). They are also supporting the creation of Aboriginal-owned and managed national parks and are backing the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania’s land return claim for the Great Western Tiers (kooparoona naira) for this purpose.
Importantly, the Greens support the creation of a Tasmanian Human Rights Act which would include the “right of Indigenous Tasmanians to maintain their distinctive identity, culture, kinship ties and spiritual, material and economic relationship with the land”.
On other election issues, whilst not directly addressing Indigenous people, the Greens plan on significantly investing into alleviating homelessness with over 8,000 new houses and $2 million per year for emergency accommodation.
The Tasmanian Greens, currently led by Cassy O’Connor, did not respond to NIT’s request for Indigenous policy details by time of publication.
The electoral race comes to a head on Saturday May 1, where the State’s Hare-Clark proportional voting system – used in Tasmania since 1907 – is once again set to deliver a typically tight result.
By Aaron Bloch