Truth-telling

Without truth, there can be no Treaty: the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission

First Peoples in this country have been calling for a truth-telling process for generations. Building on this activism, in June 2020, the Assembly agreed that truth-telling must be a fundamental part of Treaty-making and called on the Victorian Government to establish a formal truth-telling process.

The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission was formally established in May 2021 in response to this call. The mandate and form of the Commission were designed by the Assembly and the government, based on consultations with First Peoples across Victoria.

In September 2021 the Assembly presented the Commission with the Tyerri Yoo-rook Report. Tyerri Yoo-rrook, meaning ‘seeds of truth’ in Wamba Wamba/Wemba Wemba, outlined how First Peoples across Victoria wanted the Commission to interpret its mandate.

View the Assembly’s Report to the Commission

In September 2021, the Assembly handed over our Tyerri Yoo-rrook ‘Seed of Truth’ Report to the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. This report presents the ideas, hopes and expectations for a truth-telling process that our communities shared with us, and which we now entrust to the Commission as they embark on this historic journey. Watch our handover event here and view the report below.

View the Report

Background to the establishment of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission

The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission was formally established on 14 May 2021.

Yoo-rrook means ‘truth’ in the Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba language, which is spoken in the north-west region of Victoria. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission is the first truth-telling body to be established in Australia. It is independent of both government and the Assembly.

How we got here

Truth-telling is a process of openly sharing historical truths after periods of conflict. Truth-telling acknowledges human rights violations by promoting the voices of communities who have been victims of these violations. First Peoples in this country have been calling for a truth-telling process for generations. Building on this activism, in June 2020, the Assembly agreed that truth-telling must be a fundamental part of Treaty-making and called on the government to establish a formal truth-telling process.

Yoo-rrook Justice Commissioners

The Commissioners were appointed following an open and transparent nomination process.

The five Yoo-rrook Justice Commissioners who will lead the Commission are:

  • Professor Eleanor Bourke (Chair) – a Wergaia/Wamba Wamba elder with decades of leadership and dedication to advancing Aboriginal education and cultural heritage.
  • Dr Wayne Atkinson – a Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung Elder and Traditional Owner and accomplished academic with substantial knowledge and experience in human rights, land justice, cultural heritage and Koori oral history programs.
  • Ms Sue-Anne Hunter – a Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum Wurrung woman recognised as a leader in trauma and healing practices.
  • Distinguished Professor Maggie Walter – a Palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) woman descending from the Pairrebenne People of the North East Nation, and a Distinguished Professor of Sociology, and leading expert in systemic disadvantage, inequality and Indigenous Data Sovereignty.
  • Professor the Honourable Kevin Bell AM QC – the Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in the Faculty of Law at Monash University and a former justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria.

What is the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission doing?

The Commission’s key functions are to:

  1. Establish an official record of the impact of colonisation on First Peoples in Victoria using First Peoples’ stories: This will be done by inquiring into and reporting on historical systemic injustices perpetrated against First Peoples since colonisation (for example massacres, wars and genocide) as well as ongoing systemic injustices (for example policing, child protection and welfare matters, health, invasion of privacy and exclusion from economic, social and political life).
  2. Make detailed recommendations about practical actions and reforms needed in Victoria: The Commission will determine the causes and consequences of systemic injustices and who is responsible. The Commission is expected to make detailed recommendations for changes to laws, policy and education and the types of matters to be included in future Treaties. Its first report is expected by June 2022, with a final report by June 2024.

The Commission is due to provide an interim report of its findings to the First Peoples Assembly in June 2022.

The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission operates independently from both the Assembly and the Victorian Government. For further information on the work of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission follow the link below to their website.

The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission

Truth-telling updates & events

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Truth-telling resources

Truth-telling and the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission Factsheet

Our Factsheet touches on what truth-telling means, key aspects of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission and next steps.

View the Factsheet here.

The Community Guide to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a blueprint for Indigenous peoples and governments around the world, based on the principles of self-determination and participation, to respect the rights and roles of Indigenous peoples within society. It is the instrument that contains the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples all over the world.

To view the Community Guide, click here.

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The Assembly works for Aboriginal communities, and we want to hear from you. Get in touch via the form below, or call us on 1800 Treaty (1800 837 289)