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Administrative bungle to delay appointment of permanent Northern Territory Treaty Commissioner

skynews– An administrative bungle means the Northern Territory will not appoint a permanent Treaty Commissioner to replace Mick Dodson before the Commission hands down its final report next year.

Professor Dodson resigned in June after Sky News Australia revealed he had been accused of verbally abusing Aboriginal women at events in Darwin and Alice Springs.

Last month the Government quietly sought expressions of interest for an “acting commissioner” to fill the position.

It has been unable to appoint a permanent replacement because the Treaty Commissioner Act was written specifically for Professor Dodson.

The Act states: “Michael James Dodson … is taken to be the Treaty Commissioner appointed under this Act on the commencement until 3 March 2022.”

Despite being without a Commissioner since June 11, Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the Treaty process was still on track.

“It would be fair to say we might, if we had time, revisit those sorts of things.  It is the Act, (and) we’re working to the Act,” he said.

“I did not foresee the situation that has happened, happening.

“I think there was a body of work that was meant to happen over essentially a couple of years and then a step change in how we handled Treaty, that got interrupted and we’ve got to complete the dots.”

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The government now faces a race against time to appoint an acting commissioner or risk being in breach of the Act.

The Act states the office of the Treaty Commissioner cannot be vacant for more than six months.  It will be six months on Saturday since Professor Dodson resigned.  The Government closed its expressions of interest for the position on November 5, but is yet to announce an acting commissioner.

The appointment requires agreement from the Territory’s four major land councils.

Deputy Commissioner Ursula Raymond cannot be the acting commissioner as the Act excludes anyone who has been affiliated with a political party in the past five years.

Ms Raymond is a former Labor Government staffer who sought Senate pre-selection for the ALP in 2016.

Mr Gunner yesterday said Ms Raymond had not acted as the Treaty Commissioner over the past six months, but that she and the office had continued to work on the Treaty process.

Former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ken Vowles also expressed interest in the position after Professor Dodson’s resignation but was told he was ineligible because of his previous affiliation with the ALP.

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