Published: 10 November 2016

Legislative Council - Tuesday 25 October 2016


Aboriginal Names for Legislative Council Electorates - Support

Mr MULDER (Rumney - Motion) - Mr President, I move -

(1)     That where appropriate the Legislative Council supports the use of Aboriginal names for Legislative Council electorates; and

(2)     That the Tasmanian Electoral Commission be advised accordingly.

Ms  FORREST (Murchison ) - Mr President, no-one in this place would be adverse to some consideration being given to Aboriginal names of places where there are geographic features or electorates if it was a wish of the Aboriginal population and people who had a connection with the area were able to advise appropriately.  As the member for Hobart said, it is about doing things with the Aboriginal people, not to them.  It is at their request and it is a respectful request.


The member for Western Tiers highlighted in his contribution that it is not simple or straightforward, because many of our big electorates would have had a lot of tribes passing through if not living there.  Roland did not have Aboriginal people who lived in the region, but they transited through according to our historical records.  It can be difficult as some historical records' validity are often up for debate.

So I do not think there is an aversion, but there is an appropriate process which many members have outlined.  Both the member for Western Tiers and particularly the member for Mersey talked about the process available for any of us as individuals - and the member for Rosevears has indicated he will at a later time - to engage with the Tasmanian Electoral Commission to actually put forward a suggestion.  I would prefer to see the Tasmanian Aboriginal people put forward their suggestions and then it is up to the Electoral Commissioner to publicise widely what this review is about.

We all know it is about the boundaries.  The boundaries can shift and I can guarantee the risk in shifting boundaries and even though the member for Derwent wants to take over the west coast he knows what the end result will be.  My electorate and others need to grow, particularly in the northern part of the state and where that goes is going to be a challenge for the Electoral Commission to finalise.  When you have boundaries that shift, you could find you have renamed an electorate significant for a particular Aboriginal people or tribe to find it is no longer in that electorate.

Most people in the general public would not know where the specific Aboriginal tribes that may be considered in this were based, lived or went about their business.  It makes it difficult in the geographical location.  In my electorate a number of Aboriginal groups could claim their name should be the one chosen.  Look at King Island - that feels completely disenfranchised and nothing to do with the electorate of Murchison.  It does not have a thing to do with Circular Head, nothing much to do with Burnie.  A little bit with Waratah-Wynyard where you can see it from that mountain, but it is much more related to the west coast.  It is a difficult job finding a name that reflects the area and gives some people some linkages to the area and some sense of place.

This is what it is about, a sense of place, and Aboriginal people certainly have and understand much better than us at times the sense of place.  I do not have an issue with part (1) of the motion.  It is the second part that bothers me, that we are telling the Electoral Commission we think this should happen.  We, as individuals, can do that.  One member has already indicated they are going to do that.  It may not be that we individually think an Aboriginal name would be the most appropriate.  We may believe something else.  We saw that with the last revision when we changed Western Tiers from Rowallan, Wellington to Hobart, and Paterson to Launceston.

Mr Mulder - If that is an issue for you, I do not mind if you amend the motion to remove that last part.

Ms FORREST - I will leave that for other members to consider.  I am putting it out there.

Mr Mulder - I do not think it is appropriate for me to move that amendment, other than in summing up.

Ms FORREST - I will keep speaking, Mr President; I have not put anything in writing.  

I was a little concerned by some members' contributions, that there appears not to have been any direct communication with the Aboriginal people around the state, not just the TAC, or the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council, for example.  We know there are challenges around different parts of our state, with some of the Aboriginal people not being recognised by TAC.  That has created huge problems in my electorate and other electorates.  For me, this is more about having a process that already exists and utilising that process, where each, as individuals, can do that.

It is about ensuring that the Aboriginal community is aware of the opportunity to have an input into this.  That comes back to the Electoral Commissioner, to perhaps be a bit more proactive, or to the relevant sector of the Justice department to publicise it within our papers, or directly communicate with the Aboriginal groups that exist in the state to say this is an opportunity and if you have some ideas about this, put them forward.

That is a more appropriate process.  Then individually, rather than as a collective, we can put our own suggestions forward if we think that is important.  The member for Western Tiers referred to guidelines which would suggest there should be a good reason for a name change.  If we keep changing the names regularly, we potentially end up becoming confused.  Western Tiers was only changed some years ago.

Mr Hall - Five or six years ago.

Ms FORREST - Less than eight years ago.  It is when each review comes around, I guess.  That is an issue.  My electorate is on one side of the street and the other side is Montgomery.  People on the northern side of the street vote in the election for Murchison, and on the southern side of the street - there are houses on both sides - they vote in the election for Montgomery.  

It is terribly confusing.  The boundaries may change in the boundary redistribution.  There are other places where that is the case.  Boundaries go up streets.  It happens in West Park Grove, where the creek goes under the road and on one side it is Montgomery and on the other side it is Murchison.  When change is happening, at times it is difficult for people to understand if this is the same area as it was before.  If we have an Aboriginal name that referred to a particular feature of the neighbouring electorate, then that gets moved out of it, does that cause an issue?  Maybe it does not.  It is up to the Electoral Commission to focus on, particularly when they receive submissions, as I am sure they will.  The member for Rosevears has already indicated his intention to do that.  With a bit more publicity, the Aboriginal communities probably will also.

It is an opportunity.  It is not something we do every year, and the Electoral Commission does not do it every year, so it is important than an opportunity is provided.  I do not have an issue with the conversation going on, but I do not believe that we, as a collective, need to express an opinion about this.  It is something we can discuss but we do not need to inform the Electoral Commission that we have made a decision because there are many other ways of doing it and there are other ways of engaging with the Aboriginal community to ensure that their voice is heard, not ours.

[12.19 p.m.]

Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, one of the reasons I did not move the motion myself is I am not entirely convinced it does enough.  This discussion needs to be led by the Aboriginal people.  There is a process where that can happen.  Maybe a motion may be called on the Electoral Commission to engage actively with the Aboriginal people to consider this. I hear what the member for Western Tiers says about 'where appropriate'.  I assume that means the Electoral Commission will discern what is appropriate, or is that the Aboriginal people, or what?  It is a little bit unclear.

Mr Farrell - It would be more appropriate that the Aboriginal community engage with the Electoral Commission.

Ms FORREST - That is what I am saying.  There is a process, but if they are not aware that this is going on and there is an opportunity there, then I believe the Electoral Commission could do more in that space.  They could publicise it in the papers to enable the Aboriginal community to be aware that there is an opportunity here.  It only happens once every seven or eight years when there is a review.  It is really more for the Aboriginal people to put their proposals forward than for us to say that we believe this is the most appropriate way to go forward.

I am not going to go back over the substantive motion debate because I have made the points there about the challenges, and it has been alluded to by a number of members, in discerning what would be the most appropriate name and the importance of not changing them frequently.  I am not sure that we are doing to Aboriginal people here what they have asked us not to, in that without them coming forward - unless the Aboriginal people have contacted the member for Rumney and said, 'We really want you to bring this motion forward'.  I have not heard that.  I certainly have not heard from my community.

I imagine that, for example, the Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation would not even be aware of this debate, let alone that there is a move to encourage a certain course of action.  I will be talking to them when I am up there next week about whether they feel strongly that they would like to engage in the process and put forward any suggestions around this.  I am not sure this is the right approach but I will hear what other members have to say.









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