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.
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 Aboriginal communities across Victoria.
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 will the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission do?
The Commission’s key functions are to:
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).
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 Yoo-rrook Justice Commission is currently setting up its processes that will guide how it does its work. These will be informed by a report that the Assembly has prepared based on community’s views that the Assembly will provide to the Commission in June 2021.
To read the Letters Patent that name the Commissioners and set out the Commission’s mandate see here.
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