Government’s response to Yoorrook’s first truth-telling recommendations left wanting

Apr 3, 2024

The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is concerned by the Victorian Government’s official response to the first set of recommendations from the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s truth-telling process, saying it reveals the Government is not moving fast or hard enough ahead of Treaty negotiations.

Assembly Co-chair and Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman, Ngarra Murray, said she was frustrated by how long the Government had taken to respond and disappointed about the disrespect shown to community members who participated in the truth-telling process. But she also believes the response provides a number of things to be hopeful about.

“We know there’s always going to be some disagreements in the Treaty process, but it is frustrating that we’re coming up against the same old sticking points. The justice system and child protection systems simply aren’t working for our families and we need urgent reforms now. We need real action now,” said Ms Murray.

The Government has said it is already implementing some recommendations and agrees ‘in principle’ with the majority of recommendations, but said it will not speed up the timetable for raising the age of criminal responsibility and will not implement proposed bail law reforms.

“We know that unfair laws and policing practices hit Aboriginal people the hardest and are particularly harmful to our young children when they get caught up in the youth justice system. So the Government’s stubbornness when it comes to the slow timeline for raising the age is very frustrating. We won’t let it rest,” said Ms Murray.

Assembly Co-chair, Gunditjmara man Rueben Berg, said the truth-telling process was vitally important and would continue to put practical solutions on the table and inform the conversation, but that the Government needed to shift gear if it shared the Assembly’s vision of Treaty driving big picture reforms.

“Aboriginal people are all too familiar with promises written in the sand. So the Assembly will be looking to hold the Government to these ‘in-principle’ commitments and with the next round of Truth-telling recommendations, we’ll be wanting focused evidence-based outcomes that we can really lock in, so there’s no wriggle room,” said Mr Berg.

The Yoorrook Justice Commission this morning issued a statement about the Government’s response and is currently hearing its next phase of truth-telling hearings – now concentrating on the impact that colonisation has had on Aboriginal connection to land, skies and waters.

“When it comes to Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal people are the experts. That’s why we’ve created a Treaty negotiation framework that will directly empower Traditional Owners of Country to develop and deliver practical solutions at a local level. We want to get on with it,” said Mr Berg.

Read the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s statement here.