The passing of an historic bill that will help pave the way for treaty with Aboriginal Victorians is “fantastic”, the head of central Victoria’s Aboriginal corporation says.
The bill passed Victoria’s Legislative Council on Thursday night, in what was an Australian first.
Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation chief executive officer Rodney Carter welcomed the news.
“I think it’s an opportunity for people to now have this conversation about treaty,” Mr Carter said.
The bill requires that an independent Aboriginal representative body and the Victorian government work together to prepare for treaty negotiations.
The government says the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner will work with elders and other traditional owners to establish the representative body.
A treaty would be a formal agreement between the government and Aboriginal people.
Treaties could take different forms, but they might recognise past wrongs committed against Aboriginal people, provide for autonomy on certain matters, and acknowledge the position of Aboriginal people within the Victorian community.
Mr Carter said treaty would provide an opportunity for people to “come to grips with” issues such as Aboriginal sovereignty and Aboriginal people as the first peoples.
Going forward, good leadership was important, he said, in order to “take all Victorians on that journey”.
Mr Carter said a treaty in central Victoria would be complementary to the Recognition and Settlement Agreement the Dja Dja Wurrung people signed with the state government in 2013.
That agreement recognises Dja Dja Wurrung people as the traditional owners of central Victoria, and gives them formal avenues through which to continue practising culture, maintain their connection to country, and manage land jointly.
Mr Carter said that agreement could already be seen as the implementation of a treaty-type outcome.
When it comes to potentially establishing a treaty in central Victoria, Mr Carter said priorities would include continuing good governance and building healthy communities through supporting families, health and housing, as well as respecting cultural traditions.
Victoria’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins said Aboriginal people would remain at the centre of the process.
“Treaty will have benefits for all Victorians – promoting reconciliation, fostering shared pride in Aboriginal culture and helping to heal the wounds of the past,” Ms Hutchins said.