Announcing the inaugural members of the Treaty Authority

Dec 5, 2023

On behalf of the independent selection Panel tasked with finding five outstanding First Nations people to lead the Treaty Authority, I am pleased to announce the appointment of the new Treaty Authority Members.

Dr Petah Atkinson, Thelma Austin, Jidah Clark, Andrew Jackomos PSM, and Duean White will be the inaugural members of the Treaty Authority.

They will oversee the historic Treaty negotiations expected to begin in Victoria next year and will help negotiating parties navigate the conversations required to realise Treaty in Victoria.

These five remarkable people are recommended as people of integrity and on whom the community can rely to be independent and impartial. The appointments come with a high level of responsibility and will require a considerable level of dedication.

Our search was wide and the process rigorous with thorough professional and cultural referees and probity checks.

Each of the appointees has extensive skills and experience and are respected members of their communities. Their work with the Treaty Authority will be grounded in First Peoples Lore, Law, and culture. We wish them all the best in their roles as the keepers of wisdom on this vitally important and shared journey towards Treaty.

The independent Panel that undertook the recruitment and selection of candidates was comprised of myself, Karinda Taylor, along with Aunty Vicki Clark, Marcus Clarke, Eddie Cubillo and Richard Wynne. The new Members have now been appointed by the Assembly and the State in line with our recommendations.

We are grateful for the input and guidance provided in the development of the recruitment process by Uncle Andrew Gardiner and Aunty Charmain Clarke, the co-chairs of the interim Elders’ Voice convened by the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. The Panel deeply considered the Elders’ guidance and integrated their advice to build a robust and culturally strong recruitment process.

Karinda Taylor

About the Treaty Authority Members 

Dr Petah Atkinson

Petah is a Yorta Yorta woman with strong family connections to Wurundjeri, Taungurung and Waywurru people.

Petah is a health researcher with an extensive background in the Aboriginal health sector, who will bring highly valued expertise from her cultural safety work in academia and on-the-ground experience working with community to the Treaty Authority. She has worked for more than 25 years in the Aboriginal health sector, including leadership roles in Aboriginal Community Control Health Organisations.

Since 2015, Petah has been a lecturer in the Gukwonderuk Indigenous Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University. She has taught health professionals, students and educators about ways they can work meaningfully with Aboriginal people.

Petah has a PhD in medical education, specialising in Aboriginal health. Her research is situated within an Indigenous Research Paradigm and Indigenous Standpoint Theory.

Thelma Austin

Thelma is a Gunditjmara woman from Framlingham in Victoria’s south-west who has long dedicated herself to the advancement of First Nations peoples through a series of roles across government, community, not-for-profit and the private sector.

Thelma has experience as a cultural advisor and manager in the corporate and legal sectors, is an expert communicator and has a strong commitment to integrity and understanding of cultural nuance. Thelma also has a comprehensive understanding of the Victorian justice system through her work in various capacities with the Magistrates Court of Victoria – Koori Court Unit.

Previously the Employee Experience Culture Lead of fast-growing Telstra Energy, Thelma led the company to deliver on its First Nations First policy. She managed Telstra Energy’s relationships with Elders, Traditional Owners and other First Nations leaders and representatives.

Thelma has significant experience in the community. She has worked with Djirra, Koori Women’s Place, VAEAI, Aborigines Advancement League and the Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Co-op (MAYSAR). She has served as a board member of MAYSAR, Oxfam’s National Aboriginal Reference Group, City of Yarra’s Aboriginal Advisory.

Jidah Clark

Jidah is a proud Djab Wurrung man also with Kirrae Wurrung, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Wemba Wemba, and Palawa ancestry.

Jidah is a lawyer with strong policy expertise, having worked for over a decade across the private, public and community sectors. His professional experience crosses commercial litigation, human rights, systemic and organisational change, child protection, youth justice, and community development. Jidah will bring to the Treaty Authority strong cultural sensitivity, a breadth of leadership skills and a proven track record of successful project management and strategic policy advice.

Jidah is a strong advocate for First Peoples’ rights, with significant contributions to the fields of law, cultural safety, and official inquiries, for example, serving as a member of the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s Expert Advisory Committee, and playing a pivotal role in the Our youth, our way inquiry, addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the Victorian youth justice system. 

Jidah’s steadfast dedication to Indigenous rights, cultural resurgence and community advocacy is demonstrated through his professional experience and active participation in community initiatives, such as the Treaty Aboriginal Community Assembly and the Uluru First Nations Constitutional Convention. Jidah also is passionate about access to justice, and serves as a board member of Justice Connect.

Andrew Jackomos PSM

Andrew is a proud Yorta Yorta man, with direct heritage to the Gunditjmara, Taungurung and Boandik nations. He is also proud of his heritage from the Greek Island of Kastellorizo.

Andrew’s career showcases his unwavering commitment to self-determination and empowerment. Andrew has an extensive and rich history of serving the community, championing fairness, and driving self-determination initiatives. From the late 1970s, Andrew has worked across the Commonwealth and Victorian governments, leading First People’s community development and social justice policies and programs, driving self-determination through partnerships and community development. 

From 1999 to 2013 Andrew led the development and implementation of three iterations of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement. He became the inaugural Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in 2013 where he led Taskforce 1000, a landmark review into the impact of the child protection system on Aboriginal children and young people. 

In 2018 as the Special Adviser on Aboriginal Self-Determination to the Victorian Government, Andrew led the development of the Guiding Principles on Self-Determination for the state. In 2019, he led Aboriginal Economic Development initiatives with the Victorian Government. In 2022, Andrew was an executive officer with Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games leading First Nations initiatives. 

In recognition of his work in the field of social justice Andrew in 2006 received the Public Service Medal and was acknowledged by the Institute of Public Administration Australia as a Victorian Fellow and a National Fellow in 2013.

Duean White

Duean is a Biripi woman (NSW) with corporate, government and not-for-profit experience, whose legal expertise, cultural sensitivity and dispute resolution experience will be invaluable to the Treaty Authority.

Duean is a facilitator and nationally accredited mediator with experience assisting individuals and organisations in corporate, commercial, government and community-controlled sectors. Duean has a degree in law, and postgraduate qualifications in business, leadership and coaching and career development. She serves as a Mediator with the Victorian Small Business Commission, is on current panel of dispute resolution providers with the Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector (Victoria), and is an accredited Mediator on the Native Title list for the Federal Court. She is also a member of the Review Panel for the Victorian Stolen Generations Reparations Fund.

Outside mediation, she is an executive consultant driven to making workplaces better, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. She has worked with people of all levels and backgrounds with her expertise in conflict management, training, cultural safety, career development and transition, management and leadership development, team review and investigation services. She has also undertaken large-scale cultural safety audits and reviews and written Indigenous employment and other strategies.

Duean’s extensive experience highlights her versatility and adaptability, as well as her steadfast commitment to impartiality, self-determination, cultural awareness, and empowerment.