Victoria has passed Australia’s first treaty bill, opening up a pathway for future agreements to be ratified between the state government and the Aboriginal people.
The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018, introduced by the Labor government, was passed in the Legislative Council on Thursday, June 21.
The bill provides for the creation of an Aboriginal representative body that is set to be elected by Aboriginal Victorians by mid next year. The body is tasked to help formulate a framework for treaty negotiations with the state.
More than 7,000 Aboriginal Victorians were consulted over a two year period in the lead up these reforms.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins said the passing was a “historic moment,” signifying the start of the journey to treaty.
“Treaty will have benefits for all Victorians—promoting reconciliation, fostering shared pride in Aboriginal culture and helping to heal the wounds of the past,” she said in a statement, reported AAP.
“Aboriginal Victorians will continue to be at the centre of this process, as we work towards establishing the Aboriginal Representative Body.”
The bill will also set up an independent treaty authority to act an as “umpire” for treaty negotiations.
Victoria’s Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher said the path ahead was not without its challenges.
“We do have challenges ahead of us … we’re not delusional but I think we can overcome those challenges if we work through them one-by-one and we’re inclusive,” she told ABC radio.
While supporting the reforms in parliament, the Greens had called for greater recognition of individual clans. None of its amendments, including one proposed to change the term “Aboriginal Victorians” to “clans and first nations,” were accepted.
The coalition did not support the bill, saying that the measures do nothing to address the practical issues faced by Aboriginal Australians, including housing, health, and domestic violence.
“This legislation does nothing to alleviate the very real problems that many in Aboriginal Australia feel and face on a daily basis,” said Liberal MP Bernie Finn.
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