The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria – the democratic voice representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the journey to Treaty – and the Victorian Government have reached agreement to establish a key part of the architecture to enable Treaty negotiations between the Government and First Peoples.
The agreement to establish an independent Treaty Authority to oversee Treaty negotiations and help resolve disputes will be marked with a ceremonial signing when Assembly Members meet for their June Chamber Meeting.
Although the Treaty Authority will sit completely outside of the usual Government bureaucracy and will not report to a Government Minister, legislation is required to enable and facilitate that agreement to take place. That legislation will be introduced into Parliament today by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams.
Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the creation of the Treaty Authority is about ensuring Treaty negotiations aren’t restrained by western concepts but are instead grounded in over 60,000 years of culture, lore and law.
“This is about stepping outside of the colonial system. We’ve said to government, if you’re serious about Treaty, you’ll do it our way, and to their credit, that’s what they’re doing. This is decolonisation in action.
“The Government is relinquishing some of its control and power and together we are creating new institutions that will be guided by Aboriginal lore, law and cultural authority that has been practiced on these lands for countless generations,” said Mr Stewart.
Assembly Co-Chair and Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said the agreement marked a significant win for Aboriginal people, but also showed how modern Victoria could benefit from traditional knowledge and ways of working together.
“Western court systems are combative by default, whereas the Treaty Authority will respect our culture. The starting point will always be dialogue. I’m really excited to see our culture, lore and law being ingrained into the very building blocks of Treaty-making,” said Aunty Geri.
An independent panel to be agreed to by the Assembly and the Government will appoint the Members of the Treaty Authority and all Members will be First Peoples. There will be a public call for nominations in coming months.
Aunty Geri said the creation of the Treaty Authority will clear the path to Treaty and urged all First Peoples in Victoria to enrol with the Assembly so they can have a say about the next steps on the journey.
“Treaty is an opportunity to restore our ability to make the decisions that affect our communities, our culture and our Country and this agreement is a really big step towards that destination. This is a wonderful day,” said Aunty Geri.
Adam Pulford | M: 0424 885 387 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org