By JACKSON MILLER
A Wurundjeri elder has called for traditional owners to be the only people permitted to set up the framework for negotiating 'treaty', under a historic law passed by the Victorian Government.
Treaty would be a formal agreement between the state and Indigenous Victorians to recognise Indigenous people’s history and occupation of the land, while establishing a path forward based upon mutual goals.
The State Government last year passed the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act, marking the introduction of Australia's first treaty law.
At a Wurundjeri Treaty Panel, elder and co-chair of the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group, Annette Xiberras, said traditional owners, who have the right to speak on Country, should speak on behalf of Indigenous Victorians.
“This is just another form of dispossessing my people,” Ms Xiberras said.
“The treaty process today is fraud,” she said.
“We have all these local community meetings, but no traditional owner meetings."
Ms Xiberras was joined on the panel by fellow elder, Colin Hunter, who said knowledge and truth were the first steps to begin the treaty process.
“The first part of treaty is the truth-telling, getting down to the really dirty stuff,” Mr Hunter said.
“I think that there does need to be many educational programs on Indigenous history and language,” he said.
“But I also think they need to be relevant to the communities. So if you’re on Wurundjeri country, they need to be specific to Wurundjeri, and so on.”
Natalie Hutchins, former Minister for Indigenous Affairs and current Parliamentary Secretary for Treaty, said she was making sure all Indigenous Victorians were consulted.
“We have spoken to approximately 4000 people in person, and had a lot more contact online and via SMS so many more people can directly give their answers,” Ms Hutchins said.
‘Treaty circles’, which gather Indigenous families together to hear their opinions, are one of the consultation methods.
Ms Hutchins said the Victorian government was “moving in the right direction” with the treaty process, with $270 million spent in the past three years.
“So far, we’ve made quite a significant investment,” she said.
“Our first priority is getting the First People’s Assembly elected.”
Ms Hutchins acknowledged the treaty process has been a slow one, but maintained it would ensure all the right steps were taken.
“We could have rushed into it and it would have fallen apart. But by not doing so, I believe we are on a path to success,” she said.