Key step taken towards VIC Treaty as agreement reached on independent authority

Mar 11, 2022

A call from the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria to ensure new institutions created as part of the Treaty process sit outside of the usual government architecture, has been agreed to in-principle by the Victorian Government.

After months of community consultation, the Assembly’s Members officially adopted a proposal at a Chamber meeting last month. That proposal was to create a Treaty Authority, to facilitate negotiations between Traditional Owners and the State Government.

This week, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams, wrote to the Assembly’s Co-Chairs confirming that the Government was willing to proceed on that basis.

Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the creation of a Treaty Authority guided by the principles of self-determination will demonstrate the Government is willing to relinquish some of its power and meet First Peoples on neutral territory.

“We’ve been very upfront that we don’t believe the solutions lie within the current colonial system. We want the journey to Treaty to happen with respect for our culture and our lore and for everyone to benefit from that wisdom and our way of doing things. That might force some politicians out of their comfort zone, but it’s what needs to happen. It’s the path forward,” said Marcus.

The agreement includes ensuring the Treaty Authority is led by First Nations peoples; features a robust and transparent process for selecting its leadership; has adequate funding to ensure it can act independently and free from any destabilising effects of funding cycles; and is created “by agreement between two equal parties” rather than the usual process of creating another statutory body that ultimately reports to a Government Minister.

Assembly Co-Chair and Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said it was vital that the Treaty Authority embody and uphold Aboriginal Lore, Law and culture and be completely independent of the government of the day.

“The Government has told us that it was willing to think outside the confines of the usual bureaucracy, but this discussion has been the first real test of that commitment, so it’s very encouraging that we’ve reached this milestone together. There’s still a long road ahead, but it helps when there’s a genuine acceptance that this journey needs to be led by First Peoples and grounded in our culture,” said Aunty Geraldine.

Negotiations will now continue to develop the details of the Treaty Authority’s structure and establishment. Both parties are hopeful a complete agreement can be reached by June.

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