Framework for Treaty negotiations near completion

Aug 29, 2022

Members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria will gather this week in Lakes Entrance on the land of the Gunaikurnai to discuss the finalisation of the ‘framework and ground rules’ for Treaty-making and advance plans for the game-changing Self-Determination Fund.

Assembly Co-Chair and Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said talks with the Government were progressing, but Members need to wrap up a few remaining details before the next agreement can be signed with the State Government. 

“We’re getting to the pointy end of things which is really exciting. We have in place some of the key pieces of architecture like the Treaty Authority, or the independent umpire, but now we’re looking at the actual process for how Treaty negotiations might unfold,” said Aunty Geraldine. 

The ‘Treaty Negotiation Framework’ will set out how Traditional Owners of Country in Victoria can register their desire to negotiate a Treaty and will explain how different groups in the same or overlapping area can utilise the soon-to-be-created Treaty Authority to form combined ‘negotiation delegations’.

“We want mob to decide how they organise and represent themselves, so we’ve removed government completely from that process, this is about doing it our way. Invasion took a severe toll on the many nations in this state, but this process is helping us address the fault lines and mend some of the common threads. Through this Treaty process we can both build our collective strength and maintain our diverse voices and identities,” said Aunty Geraldine.

The Treaty Negotiation Framework and the Self-Determination Fund are the last two pieces of Treaty-making architecture that need to be agreed on before Treaty negotiations can begin as early as next year following the Assembly’s next election.

“Different nation groups will be at different levels of readiness to negotiate, so the Self-Determination Fund will be a way to make sure everyone can get Treaty-ready and enter negotiations on more of a level playing field. We also want the fund to generate wealth and prosperity for our communities and future generations,” said Aunty Geraldine.

Further details and a fact sheet about the Treaty Negotiation Framework can be found here.

Earlier this month, the Victorian Parliament passed legislation to establish the Treaty Authority which will be the independent umpire grounded in First Peoples’ culture, Lore and law to oversee Treaty negotiations as well as helping resolve disputes between Traditional Owner groups. 

“We’re making great progress on the journey towards Treaty here in Victoria. Our people have a voice in the Assembly, we have truth up and running with the Yoorrook Justice Commission, and Treaty is within our reach. We just need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on the framework and make sure the Government meets us in the moment and isn’t stingy when it comes to the Self-Determination Fund. That would be a great disappointment for our Community and could bring the whole thing crumpling down,” said Aunty Geraldine.

Troy McDonald, who represents the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation on the Assembly, said he was looking forward to hosting the Assembly’s Chamber Meeting on Country and sharing local knowledge and culture.

“Our cultures and practices across the state are connected but unique. One of my hopes for Treaty is that everyone in Victoria can learn more and connect with our culture. It’s pretty special. Our people have been intrinsically linked to our wurruk, that’s our word for land, yarnda – water, and watpootjan — the air we breathe, for a very long time,” said Troy. 

In Gunaikurnai dreaming, the first Gunaikurnai came down from the mountains carrying his canoe on his head. He was Borun, the pelican. He crossed over the river at what is now Sale and walked on alone to Tarra Warackel (Port Albert) in the west. As he walked, he heard a constant tapping sound but could not identify it. When he reached the deep water of the inlets, Borun put down his canoe and, much to his surprise, there was a woman in it. She was Tuk, the musk duck. He was very happy to see her, and she became his wife and the mother of the Gunaikurnai people – they are the parents of the five GunaiKurnai clans.

Meeting Agenda

Thursday 1 September 2022
Treaty Negotiation Framework

Friday 2 September 2022
Self-Determination Fund
Q&A livestream session at 3pm.

You can watch the livestream here, or head to Facebook to take part in the discussion and post your questions.

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