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Editors --- "The Kalkaringi Statement"  IndigLawB 73; (1998) 4(15) Indigenous Law Bulletin 14
The Kalkaringi Constitutional Convention of the
Combined Aboriginal Nations of Central Australia
Kalkaringi, 17– 20 August 1998
The Aboriginal Nations of Central Australia are governed by our own
constitutions (being our systems of Aboriginal law and Aboriginal
law and governance, which have been in place since time immemorial). Our
constitutions must be recognised on a basis
of equality, co-existence and mutual
respect with any constitution of the Northern Territory.
The Constitutional Convention of the Combined Aboriginal Nations of Central
Australia is deeply concerned about the implications of
Statehood for the rights
of Aboriginal peoples in the Northern Territory. We are conscious of the
hostility that the Northern
Territory Government has displayed towards
Aboriginal peoples since self-government in 1978.
We deplore the failure of the Northern Territory Government to negotiate with
the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory in
relation to the proposed
move to Statehood, and are disturbed by the inadequate acknowledgment of
Aboriginal law and Aboriginal rights
in the current Draft Constitution.
We also deplore the lack of provision in the Draft Constitution for the human
rights of Territorians generally and for the good governance of the Northern
Accordingly we adopt this Kalkaringi Statement which sets out the
aspirations and concerns expressed by delegates in relation to issues of
Statehood, Constitutional development
and governance. We resolve:
- That we do not consent to the establishment of a new State of the Northern
Territory on the terms set out in the Draft Constitution adopted by the
Legislative Assembly on 13 August 1998.
- That we will withhold our consent until there are good faith negotiations
between the Northern Territory Government and the freely
of the Aboriginal peoples of the Northern Territory leading to a Constitution
based upon equality, co-existence and mutual respect.
- That the Northern Territory Government must provide adequate resources and
negotiate in good faith a realistic timetable for such
Aboriginal Self-Determination and
- (a) That Aboriginal peoples, being the first peoples to own and govern this
land, have the right to self-determination and that our
inherent right of
self-government must be recognised and protected in any Constitution of the
- That a Northern Territory Constitution must contain a commitment to
negotiate with Aboriginal peoples a framework agreement, setting out processes
for the mutual recognition
of our respective governance structures, the sharing
of power and the development of fiscal autonomies.
- That the Commonwealth establish an independent Commission of Inquiry to
consider the experience of Aboriginal peoples under the Northern Territory
Self-Government Act 1978, to review financial arrangements for the provision
of services to Aboriginal communities and to make recommendations for future
relationships between the Northern Territory Government and Aboriginal
- That there must be direct Commonwealth funding of Aboriginal communities and
That a Northern Territory Constitution must recognise Aboriginal law through
Aboriginal law makers, and Aboriginal structures of law and governance.
Aboriginal Land Rights and Other Rights
- That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 must
remain Commonwealth legislation administered by the Commonwealth.
- That the rights of Aboriginal peoples in relation to land (including land
subject to current or historical pastoral leases, reserves
and national parks)
must be respected and afforded effective Constitutional protection.
- That the rights of Aboriginal peoples as owners of land which is currently
(or in future) national park must be recognised by the
cooperative management structures that give them effective
- That our common law and statutory rights (including those currently
contained in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976),
as well as those recognised or negotiated in coming years, must be recognised
and afforded Constitutional protection.
- That arbitrary time limits on the capacity of Aboriginal land owners to
assert their rights over land and waters must be removed.
- That any changes to a Northern Territory Constitution which concern
Aboriginal rights must be approved not only by a majority of electors at a
referendum, but also by a majority of people
of the Aboriginal nations of the
- That there must also be recognition and protection of the rights of all
Indigenous peoples of Australia in the Commonwealth
Sacred Sites and Significant Areas
That a Northern Territory Constitution must provide for Aboriginal control in
relation to, and the effective protection of, Aboriginal sacred sites and
- That procedures relating to the election of members to a Parliament of the
Northern Territory should ensure effective levels of representation
Aboriginal people, including through multi-member electoral
- That any Constitution for the Northern Territory must provide effective
mechanisms for the accountability of governments, including:
(a) Freedom of information legislation;
(b) An independent, adequately resourced Ombudsman Office;
(c) An independent, adequately resourced Auditor-General;
(d) An independent commission against corruption;
(e) An independent electoral office;
(f) Adequate provision for judicial and administrative review of government
(g) Measures to ensure fairness in government contracts.
- That any Northern Territory Constitution must guarantee the human rights
embodied in the principal human rights instruments to which Australia is party,
including the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
- There must be a particular prohibition of discrimination on any ground such
as race, sex, language and religion.
Essential Services and Infrastructure
- That a Northern Territory Constitution must recognise the right of all
residents to equal access to essential services and infrastructure, including
health, housing, clean
water, roads, communications, education, training and
employment. Special measures should operate in relation to people living in
remote areas of the Northern Territory.
- That there must be special measures for the immediate and continuing
improvement of the economic and social conditions of Aboriginal
- That Aboriginal peoples have the right to determine our own health, housing
and other economic and social programs, and to deliver
such programs through our
own adequately resourced institutions.
- That there must be recognition of:
(a) the right of Aboriginal children to all levels and forms of education of
(b) the right of Aboriginal communities to establish and control our own
educational institutions, providing education in our own
languages, in ways
appropriate to our cultural methods of teaching and learning;
(c) the right of children living outside their communities to have access to
education in their own culture and language.
- That there be culturally appropriate, compulsory components in the
curriculum of Northern Territory schools in relation to the histories
cultures of Aboriginal peoples in the Territory.
- That the Northern Territory Government must negotiate in good faith with
Aboriginal communities regarding:
That a Northern Territory Constitution must recognise the right of
Aboriginal people to understand and be understood in legal and administrative
proceedings, where necessary
through the provision of interpretation or by other
That the Northern Territory mandatory sentencing legislation is contrary to
Australia’s obligations under the International
Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights and other international human rights instruments, and must be
- the administration and resourcing of community justice mechanisms; and
- the effective participation of Aboriginal people in the justice mechanisms
of the Northern Territory.