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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Sovereignty was never ceded.

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Treaty in New South Wales

Last edited: April 17, 2024

New South Wales continues to trail behind other jurisdictions on treaty, with the new Labor government taking backwards steps on their election promise after the failed Voice referendum.

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BACKGROUND

In March 2019, just prior to the state election, the major parties in NSW released their policies regarding Aboriginal affairs. On the matter of treaty, the NSW Liberals and Nationals made clear their belief that treaty negotiations should happen at the federal level. By contrast, Labor promised a Treaty process in consultation with First Nations leaders and Elders. Then Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Labor MP, David Harris, stated that the party was ‘fully committed to that (Treaty) and what we want to do is form a partnership with Aboriginal people to determine what that looks like and how that works’. Similarly, the Greens promised treaties grounded in First Nations self-determination.

In January 2023, the then NSW Labor opposition publicly recommitted to initiating a pathway to treaty with First Nations peoples if elected in the March 2023 state election. Labor Leader Chris Minns promised a preliminary $5 million to support treaty consultations and partnerships with First Nations communities. With the Voice referendum looming, Mr Minns pledged that a pathway to treaty would occur regardless
of the referendum’s outcome.

NSW Labor won the election and formed government in March 2023, with Premier Chris Minns appointing David Harris as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty. Minister Harris committed to a bottom-up approach to treaties that will strengthen community engagement in treaty negotiations and outcomes. Harris also quietly announced his plan to appoint three commissioners, alongside a secretariat, to oversee a year-long treaty consultation with the First Nations community.

In October 2023, one week after the loss of the Voice referendum, Premier Chris Minns walked back his support for treaty, saying that a state treaty would not progress past consultation and planning in NSW until after the next election. When Minister Harris was asked about appointing commissioners for the treat consultation, Harris would not confirm if or when commissioners would be appointed. A week later, however, Minister Harris revealed that Labor was aiming to set up an independent treaty commission by mid-2024 that would guide the government’s substantive consultations with First Nations people and denied that this goal was in conflict with Mr Minns’ previous comments.

In December 2023, a motion to progress treaty processes passed NSW’s Upper House with a slim majority.

Further Reading

Treaty in NSW Factsheet

To read a more in depth account of Treaty in NSW, you can access our Factsheet here

Other links

Resources
Report
ANTAR Impact Report Read
Media Release
ANTAR Response to Closing the Gap Review Read
Media Release
Statement on the Vic Opposition dropping support for Treaty Read
Media Release
ANTAR Statement on the Referendum outcome Read
More
Treaty
Treaty What is treaty? Read More
Treaty Tracing Treaty in Australia Read More
Treaty Treaties elsewhere Read More
Treaty Treaty in the States & Territories Read More