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Issue #1735      June 15, 2016

Treaty talks in Victoria

The first official stages of negotiating a treaty between the Aboriginal nations of Victoria and the state government began in Melbourne as the nation marked Sorry Day on May 26.

Aboriginal people from across the state gathered for a two-day forum on self-determination and treaty, which began with a video message from Labor Premier Dan Andrews.

“This treaty will be the first of its kind for our nation,” Andrews said. “It’s something to be both sad and proud about because this treaty is well overdue, but the rest of Australia is listening and with your input, your voice, we can make history.”

Mutti Mutti, Yorta Yorta, and Boonwurrung musician Kutcha Edwards, a member of the Stolen Generations, questioned why the discussions were happening on such a significant and heart-wrenching day for Aboriginal people. “I have never, nor have my ancestors ever, ceded the sovereignty of our lands or territories,” he said.

Edwards sang two powerful songs, Mudha Yidi Yidi Mutti (I never) and Is this what we deserve. He said he felt “conflicted” discussing major issues on Sorry Day.

Gunditjmara musician, activist and filmmaker Richard J Frankland said that the greatest thing he’s ever seen is “us”, Aboriginal people. “We’re one great walking scar, but when the government pull us down, we get back up; we create sacred spaces around and amongst ourselves,” he said.

“Fight like hell”

“We need to fight like hell for the living and fight like hell for the children of tomorrow. That this government is willing to talk treaty is huge, but we should remain vigilant – and we will be.

“We don’t want to rush into a treaty. We want to get it right, and for it to be completely representative of all Aboriginal Victorians.

“I think we’re going to get a treaty and change the cultural tapestry of this nation.”

Activists Robert Thorpe and Gary Foley were in attendance outside the forum holding banners of protest: “Genocide to stop, Sovereignty recognised, Treaty to be made”.

“You’re negotiating a treaty with the people that committed these crimes!” Thorpe protested, while Foley refused to speak to the media.

Yorta Yorta man Jason Tamiru questioned the legitimacy of the process taking place within the forum, which was organised with assistance from the Victorian government.

“A treaty needs to come from the people; it can’t come from this propaganda,” he said.

Some forum delegates expressed concern that a change in government could spell a change to the open dialogue between the community and the government on treaty.

The overwhelming response, however, was one of determination from the Victorian Aboriginal community members at the forum. They were not going to let the opportunity of being able to present treaty legislation to Premier Andrews slip them by.

The forum decided that an interim treaty steering council should be made up of young people, Elders, traditional owners and Aboriginal organisations.

Koori Mail

Next article – On the trail of election spin

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