2018 has been a year of substantial progress in the Victorian treaties process.
Nearly 12 months ago, in January, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission, led by Jill Gallagher AO was launched with the purpose of setting up the Aboriginal Representative Body independent of government.
(The Aboriginal Representative Body will be the voice for Aboriginal people as the treaties process continues. It will be set up in mid-2019, and one of its most critical jobs involves setting up the Negotiation Framework – the ‘road map’ to treaties being negotiated and Treaty Authority – the independent umpire.)
In March, the Treaty Working Group published its Final Report on the Aboriginal Representative Body – building on two years of work, including the recommendations of the Community Assembly. This report has guided the work of the Commission.
Also in March, Australia’s first treaty laws were introduced to Victorian Parliament, with help from the Treaty Working Group. The bill protected the treaties process in law – meaning that, if passed, it would take an act of Parliament to change it.
In April, people in the Barwon and south west regions of Victoria came along to Aboriginal Community Gatherings. These were the first of 30 local meetings across Victoria, with more than 1000 people attending all up.
More Aboriginal Community Gatherings were held in the Grampians and Mallee regions, and in Portland in June. The Commission team were in Robinvale when Parliament passed the treaty legislation that committed the Victorian Government to work with the Representative Body.
In July, community members in the Loddon and Hume regions discussed treaty at Aboriginal Community Gatherings.
In August, the Commission held more Aboriginal Community Gatherings across suburban Melbourne.
In late August and early September, community members in Gippsland came along to Aboriginal Community Gatherings.
In late September, approximately 400 Aboriginal people from across Victoria came to a Statewide Gathering and Elders Forum held by the Commission. At both events, community members discussed a proposed Aboriginal Representative Body model. Also, Elders discussed the Elders’ voice, which will be part of the Aboriginal Representative Body.
In October, the Commission took feedback from community members about the proposed Representative Body model. This feedback is now being considered and analysed as we seek to make the Representative Body as effective as possible.
In November and December, the Commission continued to attend community events and talk treaty with people across Victoria.
2019 will be a huge year and we will continue to have conversations with the Aboriginal community right up until the creation and launch of the Aboriginal Representative Body.
To sum it all up, there’s lots happening.
To everyone in our community, thank you for participating in these gatherings and continually helping to share this treaty process.
Have a safe and happy holiday period. We’re looking forward to continuing these important conversations next year.