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Victorian Parliament passes historic Treaty legislation

[supplied by First Peoples' Assembly of Vic]

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First Peoples Assembly Co-Chairs Marcus Stewart and Geraldine Atkinson.

Image: First Peoples Assembly of Victoria

The first independent umpire in Australia to oversee Treaty negotiations will be created following a historic vote in the Victorian Parliament to concede some of the State’s power. 

Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the establishment of the Treaty Authority was about stepping outside of the colonial system and putting First Peoples’ lore, law and cultural authority at the heart of the journey to Treaty. 

“This is another huge step forward and one that mob all around the Country can take inspiration from. With the Assembly our people have a voice. We already have Truth-telling underway and now Treaty is very much within reach,” said Mr Stewart. 

The agreement reached between the First Peoples’ Assembly and the Government of Victoria in June establishes the Treaty Authority outside of the usual state bureaucracy – it won’t report to a Minister, its funding is insulated from the whims of political cycles, and it will be led entirely by First Peoples.  

Assembly Co-Chair, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said it was encouraging to see the public and politicians willing to have the hard conversations and to finally make space and listen to the needs and hopes of First Peoples. 

“When people tell me this sounds like a very different way of doing things, I think good! Treaty needs to be done on our terms, because our people need to have faith in the path forward. We’ve been let down too many times before, but now there is real sense of hope growing. Hope that this country is ready to reckon with the past and make amends so we can create a better future together,” said Aunty Geraldine. 

In the coming months the Assembly and the Victorian Government will seek to reach agreement about the ‘Treaty Negotiation Framework’ which will set the ground-rules and process for Treaty negotiations. Talks are also underway about a ‘Self Determination Fund’ that will ensure Traditional Owners can enter negotiations on a more level playing field and First Peoples communities can create wealth and prosperity for future generations. 

Aunty Geraldine said nothing was off the table and that Treaty needs to both respect and uphold First Peoples’ Culture and correct the economic disadvantage inflicted by dispossession. 

“This generation has the opportunity to right past wrongs by making sure the future is one we can be proud of. We have here in this place we all call home, the oldest living Culture in the world. It’s beautiful and we want to share and celebrate it with everyone. All we ask in return is that we regain the freedom and power to make the decisions that affect our lives and our land,” said Aunty Geraldine. 

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