Treaty does not need to instill any fear in the non-Aboriginal community but would simply be an expression of true democracy and self-determination, Michael Mansell says.
The chairperson of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania will give a talk on the subject of treaty at the Launceston Town Hall on Wednesday, covering how treaty could be achieved without a referendum and how designated Aboriginal seats in Parliament could work.
A treaty was widely recognised as a method of righting the wrongs carried out on Aboriginal people, particularly the state-sanctioned coercion where Aboriginals were promised they could return to their land after they were taken to Wybalenna.
Mr Mansell participated in the early stages of the treaty process in Victoria but believed it had become bogged down in who should represent Aboriginals, rather than discussing treaty itself.
Treaties at both the state and federal levels could have a role to play in the future for Aboriginal communities across Australia, so how does Mr Mansell think it could work?
Treaty or no treaty, Crown Land could be returned to Aboriginal people.
The biggest problem with waiting for governments to act was that, without a treaty, just 300 square kilometres of the 67,000 square kilometres of Tasmania had been returned under the Aboriginal Lands Act 1995.
Mr Mansell said Crown Land in the South-West Wilderness World Heritage Area, larapuna/Bay of Fires and takayna/Tarkine were areas that could be returned.
"It's areas where no one lives, where no one has any permanent interest," he said.
"We could immediately see 30 Aborigines employed full-time in managing those areas. Then you'd have at least another dozen people administering the programs to manage access into the areas, so that we could use the areas to promote knowledge of Aboriginal history.
"Parks and Wildlife would have a far smaller role. Their role would be more on scientific protection."
Mr Mansell said Parks and Wildlife was "at the mercy" of political interference, whereas Aboriginal management would focus on environmental outcomes.
Public access to land
One of the general public's greatest concerns - particularly bush user groups - at proposed land hand backs was over access to public land.
Mr Mansell said there would be few changes.
"It's just a matter of managing public access rather than stopping it," he said.
"When you've got 80 kilometres of existing off-road access in the takayna, we would say that's certainly enough.
ON CAPE BARREN ISLAND/TRUWANA:
"We would agree to further access, but not by vehicle. People could walk down to the beaches in a 500-metre walk rather than drive their cars down behind the dunes."
Tasmania has some examples of land hand backs since 1995 which Mr Mansell said proves they did not result in locking up land.
"There are non-Aborigines who had leases on the mutton bird islands and they still have those leases 24 years later," he said.
"At the land handed back on the West Coast, the public still has access into the property and down to the beach."
Aboriginal seats in Parliament
The Uluru Statement of the Heart wanted an enshrined Aboriginal voice in Parliament, which the government has since interpreted to mean an "advisory" voice rather than a vote, and neither looks likely to be pursued in any constitutional recognition referendum.
The Tasmanian Parliament is also investigating increasing the lower house from 25 to 35 seats, which could open up the opportunity for a permanent Aboriginal seat.
Mr Mansell said voting for those seats could follow the model that has operated in New Zealand since 1850.
"Like the old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission elections, Aborigines either vote for that position or they vote in the general election, but not for both," he said.
Mr Mansell was concerned about the "watering down" of the Aboriginal voice in Parliament idea.
"Even if the referendum got up and Aborigines were given the right to advise, there's no decision-making power but just a right to advise," he said.
"Then every time we went back to the Parliament after that and said 'we want self-determination', they would say 'how can you? You agreed that the people of Australia could give you a right to advise'."
If an Aboriginal seat in the Tasmanian parliament was granted, who would be eligible to vote for it?
ATSIC had a tribunal that could consider whether people had Aboriginal ancestry, had identified as an Aboriginal over time and if they were accepted by Aboriginal people as being Aboriginal.
Mr Mansell said the electoral commission could fill this role as an independent body that could use this definition to determine eligibility, with appeals possible in the Federal Court.
"When an independent body like the electoral commission determines eligibility, it means those who don't have legitimate claims to Aboriginality drop off," he said.
In the treaty process, and combined with land hand backs, Mr Mansell was also calling for an Aboriginal representative body to be provided with a percentage of Tasmania's annual GDP to administer to Aboriginal causes.
The percentage would be proportionate to the Aboriginal population, he said.
"The representative body would work in conjunction with Aboriginal people to work out priorities and allocate resources," Mr Mansell said.
"If you have a treaty and resources can be distributed, the Aboriginal body should be able to decide and distribute these resources."
Tasmanian or federal treaty?
While the state government has jurisdiction over police, prisons, health and housing, the Commonwealth controls environmental laws and provides funding for specialised legal and health services.
Neither would require a referendum, just legislation from the respective parliaments.
If a treaty comes into place at the federal level however, it could have jurisdiction to return Crown Land in Tasmania to Aboriginals, or make changes over the way Aboriginals were imprisoned based on a nationwide approach, regardless of the state's position.
A Tasmanian treaty with allow the state government to set its own terms, but Mr Mansell wanted any future changes to a treaty to only be allowed with the consent of both the Parliament and the Aboriginal representative body enshrined in the treaty.