Powerful voices given to Indigenous youth

By Evelyn Leckie

Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher spread the word to Mernda College’s Aboriginal students to enrol and have their voices heard during the Treaty advancement process.

Victoria is gearing up for the nation’s first Treaty, the process will allow Indigenous Victorians, 16 years or older, to enrol and nominate leaders to assist with Treaty advancement.

The City of Whittlesea has the second largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in metropolitan Melbourne, prompting Ms Gallagher to speak to the school students about the importance of Treaty.

Leaders selected through an election process will form the First Peoples’ Assembly – made up of 33 Traditional Land Owners who will lead discussions into the next phase of Victoria’s Treaty process.

A treaty is an agreement between Aboriginal people and governments in order to allow each party to negotiate on equal footing.

Each treaty is a product of the area’s history, social and political environment and could include recognition of past wrongs committed on Aboriginal people, an acknowledgement of the unique position of Aboriginal Victorians, an official apology, reconciliation and truth telling.

“Our community is about to take a big step forward on the journey to Treaties,” Ms Gallagher said.

“If we get it right, every Traditional Owner group should be able to negotiate their Treaty for their Country.”

Ms Gallagher said she wanted to see more enrolments in order to send a strong message to government.

“We do have a government that is sympathetic and committed, that wants to see justice – but at the same time they want to see numbers,” she said.

“We’re expecting a big influx of nominees over the weekend.”

Australia is the only Commonwealth country that does not have a Treaty with its Indigenous people.

Victoria is the leading state working towards an Indigenous Treaty alongside the Northern Territory, which are also advancing their Treaty negotiations and community consultations.

“If we get successes here, I believe there will be a Commonwealth treaty,” Ms Gallagher said.