The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria says the Victorian Government’s support for a truth-telling process is an historic moment in time.
Co-Chair Marcus Stewart says the government’s acceptance of the need for a truth-telling process, and commitment to work with the Assembly on establishing one, will go down in history as a momentous decision.
“This is an historic moment in time, for the first time we’re seeing a commitment to a truth-telling process in this country or state,” Mr Stewart said.
“Truth is critically important to Treaty, so much so that without truth there cannot be Treaty.”
Co-Chair, Geraldine Atkinson, said a truth-telling process will help unite all people in the state by giving them a greater connection to, and knowledge of, a shared history.
“Truth-telling gives Victoria the opportunity to make the invisible visible and the pain of so many both heard and reconciled,” she said.
“It can create a future Victoria that we all belong to, we all connect with, and that our children embrace as their own piece of history.”
The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the Aboriginal-elected voice to advance the Treaty process in Victoria, overwhelmingly voted to call for a truth-telling process at its third Chamber meeting on the 18th of June.
Members understand that among general society, only part of our history has become the historical narrative. Little is known of Aboriginal histories extending back to time immemorial or the injustices perpetuated against Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians over the past 200 years.
The frontier wars, massacres, enslavements, policies of protection and assimilation, Stolen Generations and ongoing removal of Aboriginal children, over incarceration and deaths in custody are largely hidden from this State’s collective narrative.
“These injustices cannot be undone, we cannot change history, but we can change how history is viewed,” Mr Stewart said.
Aunty Geri said truth-telling processes has been shown to help in countries experiencing division and it will do the same here.
“Truth and reconciliation commissions have helped societies heal and recover from fractures and wounds across dozens of countries, including South Africa after apartheid and in Canada to acknowledge abuses of its Indigenous peoples,” she said.
“Now it’s time for truth here as well.”
The Assembly has congratulated the government for continuing to lead the nation in moving towards a more equitable society, based on truth, that will bring pride to all Victorians. The Assembly will engage with the Victorian Aboriginal community on the design of the truth telling process.
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The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is the voice for Aboriginal people in the next phase of the Treaty process.
It represents communities in setting – along with government – the ‘ground rules’ or Treaty. This includes a framework for negotiations – which sets out how Treaties can be agreed in Victoria. It will also help set up the Treaty Authority, which will be an independent umpire through the Treaty process, and a Self-determination fund so Aboriginal communities can negotiate on a level playing field with the government.
It has not been established to negotiate Treaties.
The Assembly has 31 members – 21 elected by a statewide vote held in 2019 and 10 nominated by formally-recognised Traditional Owner groups.