The Guardian November 14, 2001

Aboriginal democracy at work

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and the NSW 
Aboriginal Land Council will host a three-day forum in Dubbo NSW, to 
discuss the notion of a treaty. They plan to access the views of Indigenous 
people from hundreds of communities across the State.

"It is a mammoth task and we are planning 116 community and regional 
meetings over the next six to twelve months in a bid to reach all of those 
people. It's vital that we do this work, as it is crucial the information 
is delivered accurately, thoroughly and in a culturally appropriate 
manner", said ATSIC Commissioner Steve Gordon.

The two organisations joined forces to ensure every Indigenous community in 
NSW had an opportunity to learn about the issues, facts and purpose of a 
treaty or treaties.

"Once communities and people have had this opportunity they will then be 
better placed to make an educated decision as to whether they want a treaty 
or not", said Land Council chairman Rod Towney.

"It makes sense that we work together to reach all Indigenous people in the 
State", he said.

There will be a "train the trainer" style forum with those who will be co-
ordinating the meetings across NSW.

Commissioner Gordon is responsible for ATSIC's treaty portfolio and has 
stressed his organisation's aim is to promote and encourage discussion and 
debate within the Indigenous population first.

"When and if the Indigenous people of this State decide that they wish to 
go further then we'll seek a dialogue with the broader community", he said.

"This decision is for Indigenous people to make, and we will follow their 
lead", chairman Towney concluded.

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