The NSW Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty Minister David Harris has acknowledged the road to establishing a NSW Treaty with Aboriginal communities will not “be an easy process”.

As it stands, the government has committed $5m to a one-year consultation process with Aboriginal communities, which will ask whether they want a Treaty, and what that process should look like.

If they do, the government would then take the policy to a subsequent election so it has a mandate to enact it.

Speaking at budget estimates on Thursday, Mr Harris said a decision would not be made until mid-2025 at the earliest.

Mr Harris said an independent Treaty Commission would be established by early to mid-2024, with discussions currently underway about who will be on the commission.

“It has to be a process that heavily involves Aboriginal people,” he said.

“What the Premier made clear was that we would let people talk about the Referendum and have that finish before we fully engage on Treaty.”

The government will also undergo “wider community engagement” to educate people on what a treaty would involve, with further announcements slated for the end of 2023, and early 2024.

“We can’t pre-empt what might occur in the consultation,” said Mr Harris.

“When you look at other states that this process has taken, six, seven years … No one is pretending this is a quick, easy process but we have to be respectful and do it right.”

Asked specifically how the government plans on spending the $5m on the consultation process, Mr Harris stressed the importance of ensuring collaboration with Aboriginal clans and peoples.

“I’m not going to be out there telling Aboriginal people when they have to make their decision by. That’s the wrong thing to do and we understand that clearly,” he said.

He also said the government’s Treaty process would be guided by self-determination and working with community organisations.

“We need to consult more and walk in partnership more with Aboriginal people (and) have them more involved in decision making,” he said.

“(We) acknowledge that community controlled organisations have better outcomes, in terms of, you know, when they’re directly funded and providing services to community.

“It’s no great secret but there needs to be more community education around understanding that the best way forward is through self determination.”


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By Rahul

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