The establishment of the first independent umpire in Australia to oversee Treaty negotiations is set to become a reality this week with the Victorian Parliament’s upper house anticipated to vote the legislation into law as early as Tuesday.
Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were leading the journey and crafting the solutions had been key to the progress being made in Victoria.
“Our Culture, lore and law have been practiced on these lands for countless generations and have stood the test of time. So I’m delighted that our communities have crafted the Treaty umpire in a way that respects our way of doing things and will draw on the wisdom of the oldest living Culture in the world,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The agreement between the Assembly and the Victorian Government on the form the Treaty Authority will take was reached in June and a ceremonial signing was held on Gadubanud Country of the Eastern Maar people in Lorne.
The agreement establishes the Treaty Authority outside of the usual state bureaucracy – it won’t report to a Minister, its funding is insulated from the whims of political cycles, and it will be led entirely by First Peoples.
The Labor, Liberal and Greens parties have all backed the legislation which is due to be discussed in the upper house this week before a vote.
Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the journey to Treaty in Victoria mustn’t be constrained by western concepts and colonial systems.
“It’s time to do things differently, enough of the top-down government approach. Treaty is about putting First Peoples in the driver’s seat so we can make the decisions that affect our communities, our Culture and our Country. The Assembly, as the democratic voice for mob in Victoria, has spoken and, to the politicians’ credit, they’ve listened. They’ve been willing to make some space and to concede some power. This is what decolonisation looks like,” said Mr Stewart.
With a Truth-telling process already underway and the establishment of the Treaty umpire imminent, the next steps towards Treaty includes creating the ‘Treaty Negotiation Framework’ that will set the ground-rules and process for Treaty negotiations. The Assembly is hopeful an agreement can be reached with the Government in the coming months.
Members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria will be at Parliament on Tuesday to observe and will be available for comment.
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