Aboriginal Barrister Appointed to Deliver Report on Treaty to Australia’s Northern Territory

By Steve Milne
Steve Milne
Steve Milne
December 8, 2021 Updated: December 8, 2021

The Northern Territory (NT) government on Wednesday appointed Australia’s most senior Indigenous barrister Tony McAvoy SC (Senior Counsel) to the role of Acting Treaty Commissioner.

McAvoy’s posting comes after the territory’s first treaty commissioner, Prof. Mick Dodson, resigned from the position in June.

As treaty commissioner, McAvoy will facilitate consultation with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory regarding a Treaty, develop a framework for negotiations, and make recommendations to the NT chief minister.

NT Minister for Treaty and Local Decision Making Selena Uibo welcomed McAvoy’s appointment.

“He has extensive experience working here in the Territory which has involved engaging with key Aboriginal organisations to ensure better outcomes for Aboriginal Territorians,” she said.

Central Land Council Chief Executive Officer Lesley Turner also welcomed the appointment and noted McAvoy’s work with the Royal Commission into Youth Detention in the NT.

“He understands the need for a fundamentally different approach to child protection as it relates to our children, who are still being imprisoned at record rates,” Turner said.

“A lifetime of working in the legal and government sectors as a Wirdi man have prepared him for settling the unfinished business between our peoples and the NT Government.”

The appointment was made based on an expression of interest process, along with a selection panel made up of representatives from the NT government and the four Northern, Central, Tiwi, and Anindilyakwa Aboriginal land councils.

McAvoy will have six months to present his report to the NT Government in March next year.

The NT government said in a release that McAvoy was a widely respected barrister with strong ties in the territory. He was Co-Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, and advisor to the Paul Ramsay Foundation, which partnered with community-led organisations and government on the NT Aboriginal Justice Agreement.

McAvoy has worked with key Aboriginal organisations such as the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency and Northern Land Council, as well as provided legal and strategic advice on Treaty matters to the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner and the Queensland Treaty Working Group.

Steve Milne