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Former SA Treaty Commissioner appointed to engagement role

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Former Treaty Commissioner Dr Roger Thomas, whose position was scrapped following a Marshall Government decision to end the treaty process, has been appointed Commissioner for Aboriginal Engagement.

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Executive council approved Thomas’ appointment this morning following the resignation of Harry Miller who was less than a year into his three-year term as commissioner.

Under the role, Thomas will be tasked with advocating on behalf of all Aboriginal people and communities across South Australia and providing advice to the Government on improving Aboriginal engagement.

After his election, Premier Steven Marshall, who also holds the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio, confirmed the Government had scrapped plans to work on treaties with the state’s Aboriginal groups.

The former Labor Government appointed Thomas as Treaty Commissioner when it launched treaty discussions in 2016.

Marshall said last month that, instead of the treaty process, his Government would instead prioritise a “state-wide plan with a series of defined outcomes for Aboriginal people across areas including education, child protection, health and jobs.”

Today, the Premier said Thomas would bring to his new role a wealth of community service experience through posts on state, national and international advisory committees and as the inaugural Professor of Indigenous Engagement at the University of Adelaide.

He said the Government’s priority was to now find “more practical and timely” ways to support South Australia’s Aboriginal communities.

“I have asked all of my Ministers to discuss with their agencies, actions that can be taken to make a difference for Aboriginal people,” Marshall said.

“I recognise that Aboriginal communities want a strong relationship with the Government, regular engagement and the opportunity to present their views to Ministers and to senior people in government agencies.

“Communities also want governance processes within their own communities to ensure that when they are engaging with the Government, the representation of their people’s views is effective.”

Marshall said the State Government would work in a “collaborative, respectful, place-based manner” to deliver outcomes in sectors including economic participation, justice, health and education.

He said he had “respectfully” accepted commissioner Miller’s resignation.

Miller, an Aboriginal leader from the Eyre Peninsula, told Aboriginal Way last year that he had moved to Adelaide to take up the role.

Last month the State Government began advertising the new role of Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People charged with the promoting the safety and wellbeing for Aboriginal young people.

The Liberal Party announced the new role as an election commitment earlier this year.

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