More stumbling blocks on treaty path

The Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher is holding a new round of regional meetings from June 15 as debate continues to rage over the state’s path to a treaty.

Ms Gallagher, a Gunditjmara woman, said community gatherings would be held in Portland, Ballarat, Horsham, Mildura, Robinvale and Swan Hill.

“I want to hear from community about their aspirations,” Ms Gallagher said.

“In Victoria we are closer to Treaty than we have ever been before.

“It’s really important that community is at the heart of this journey.”

Ms Gallagher’s main role is to set up an elected Aboriginal representative body to set the ground rules for negotiations and to help communities negotiate.

Meanwhile talks are continuing between the Victorian Greens and the state’s Labor Government over the content of legislation that would pave the way for a treaty and could be tabled in the state’s Parliament as early as next week.

The talks began after Victoria’s only Aboriginal MP, the Greens’ Lidia Thorpe, a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, said she could vote against the legislation if amendments recognising sovereignty weren’t included.

Ms Thorpe could not be contacted for comment this week, but the amendments to the legislation she is seeking include recognition for the state’s “sovereign clans” over “Aboriginal Victorians”.

Calls for unity over division

The Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations said failure to obtain bipartisan support for a treaty in Victoria would let down its First Peoples and be a missed chance to create a defining moment in Australia’s history.

The FVTOC called for united support on treaty.

Federation chief executive officer Marcus Stewart said the bill to go to Parliament in its current form did not legislate the outcomes of a treaty, but outlined a framework for future negotiations.

The FVTOC said the bill was the culmination of the work of more than 7000 Aboriginal community members engaged to work with the State Government to progress treaty over two years.

It said it would need the support of the Labor Party and Liberal Nationals Party to pass, or the Labor Party, the Greens and the Independent MPs.

Eastern Maar chief executive officer Jamie Lowe, who recently attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, said there were lessons to be learnt from the international community.

“We can sit back and observe countries like Canada, who have just negotiated their ninth treaty while significant gaps for education, health and employment continue in Australia,” Mr Lowe said.

Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Rodney Carter said traditional owners would have a voice and greater respect of their recognition as First Peoples if the bill went through.

‘Flawed consultation process’

But another Aboriginal nation, the Yorta Yorta nation, called for the bill to be put on hold until August.

The Yorta Yorta Council of Elders said the bill had a “flawed consultation process”.

The council said if there was to be a treaty it must be with the right people.

Earlier this month a group of influential Aboriginal elders said the government was mismanaging the treaty process by not including leaders of the state’s remaining Aboriginal clans.

The Clan Elders Council asked to be involved in future talks.

Victoria, which goes to the polls in November, is currently aiming to be the first state to reach a treaty with Aboriginal people.

Moves towards a treaty in South Australia were put on hold after a change in government this year.

Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher will host meetings in Portland on June 15, Ballarat on June 18, Horsham on June 19, Mildura on June 20, Robinvale on June 21 and Swan Hill on June 22.

Wendy Caccetta

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