Cover image for Aboriginal Affairs Study Group
Aboriginal Affairs Study Group
Agency Number:
Start Date:
01 Apr 1977
End Date:
01 Nov 1978
As a result of the Land Claim petition and the publicity given to an "Aboriginal Parliament" tent pitched outside Parliament in Hobart, the Tasmanian Parliament in 1977 set up an Aboriginal Affairs Study Group to examine the Aboriginal Land Claim. Its terms of reference were:
o The feasibility of a Land Trust 
o The mutton-bird industry
o Social development
The State Committee of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) was asked to send delegates to each section and its leagal adviser was also invited to discussions on the mutton bird industry and a Land Trust. Others consulted were members of the Flinders Island Community Association* and the Cape Barren Land Council** and nominees from National Parks and Wiildlife, Land, Education, Social Welfare, and Housing government departments.
Topics discussed were:
" Whether there should be one Lands Trust for all Tasmania or whether there should be a separate one for Cape Barren Island. (The TAC representative emphasised the need to recognise Tasmanian Aborigines and land ownership for all Tasmanian Aborigines whether of the Cape Barren Island community or elsewhere).
" The importance of the mutton-bird industry in the Land Claim.
" Islands suitable as possible future sites for co-operatives. The complicated mutton-bird licence system.
" The need to protect freehold and leasehold land held by Aborigines and non-Aborigines on the islands.
" Increased Aboriginal representation on the Advisory Board of the Aboriginal Relics Act (National Parks and Wildlife Service).
BUT in 1978 the TAC at its annual general meeting unanimously voted to instruct its delegates to withdraw from the Study Group because of its lack of understanding or commitment to the philosophy of Land Rights.
The Report of the Study Group* was published in November 1978. It recognised that apart from Queensland, Tasmania was the only State in the Commonwealth which did not have land held in trust by Aboriginal people.
Its recommendations were:
1. A single Aboriginal Lands Trust for all Tasmania.
" to consist of a committee of Aboriginal people drawn from the TAC, Cape Barren Island Council, the Flinders Island Community Association and/or other incorporated Tasmanian Aboriginal organisations
" to have power, with the consent of the Minister, to hold and acquire land, to lease land to, or develop land for Aborigines.
" to alienate land (with the consent of Parliament).
" the composition of the Trust to be finally determined by the Minister on the basis of nominations from incorporated Tasmanian organisations.
2. Unalienated portions of Cape Barren, Babel and Big Dog Islands be transferred to the Trust with freehold title.
3. Aboriginal people be given preference in the future granting of mutton-bird leases on islands not held by the Trust.
* Parliament of Tasmania, Report of the Aboriginal Affairs Study Group of Tasmania, 1978.
4. Purchases of land by the Trust be funded by the Commonwealth and made with the permission of the Minister. 
5. The Aboriginal Relics Act, 1975 be amended and retitled the Aboriginal Sites and Relics Act.
6. The Aboriginal Relics Advisory Council be reconstituted to include the Aboriginal Lands Trust and other Aboriginal organisations. (The Council is at present reviewing its constitution and operations).
A Draft Tasmanian Aboriginal Trusts Bill
To implement these recommendations a Bill for a Tasmanian Aboriginal Lands Trust was drafted. But in 1982, before it could be enacted the Government was defeated. Mr Cleary, Minister for Community Welfare, has said that the present Liberal Government will not grant land rights to Tasmanian Aborigines.

Information Sources:
Aboriginal Treaty Committee Papers;;AIATSIS Library, MS 1867 Box 22, Items 193-199;;"Land Rights In Tasmania", pamphlet prepared for the ;;Aboriginal Treaty Committee by Mildred Kirk. ;;
Legislation Creating:
Minister for Consumer and Ethnic Affairs Apr 1978
Functions Performed:
Aboriginal affairs