Bendigo's Indigenous community have renewed calls for a treaty as they gathered on Monday to officially launch NAIDOC week in the region.
The week, which recognises and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture, began with a traditional flag raising and smoking ceremony outside the Bendigo Town Hall.
But Indigenous academic enrichment adviser at La Trobe University Bendigo, Tashara Roberts, said the week would be "bittersweet" for many people in the community.
"With the current theme, 'voice, truth and treaty', this makes me think that we've been thinking about a treaty for 40 years and that's the entire time I've been alive," she said.
"If it doesn't happen now, it may never happen so I'm really hopeful that we're going to be able to all get together as a community and make that happen.
"For that to happen - for real reconciliation to happen - we have to acknowledge all of the truth of our shared history. It's not Aboriginal history. It's everyone's history.
"Put a treaty in place, put an Aboriginal voice to parliament, and only then can we come together as one people and truly reconcile and become a nation united."
Australia is the largest Commonwealth country without a treaty with its Indigenous population.
The Victorian government has begun a process of establishing a treaty with Indigenous Australians, after the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill passed through parliament in 2018.
"Treaty is not something to be scared of at all," Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative project manager Stacey Bennett said.
"It's going to be a really great thing for Victoria and Australia, and it's very much needed.
"It will bring a lot of healing for the Indigenous community - just to be recognised that this is their land and they are the traditional owners of this land.
"They just want to be recognised."
Read more: Bendigo's NAIDOC Week continues to grow
Yorta Yorta and Wemba Wemba elder Aunty Lyn Warren said a treaty would be welcomed.
"I do believe it will happen, just not sure when that will be," she said. "Treaty is really a big issue that is happening and I think it's a somewhat better way to bring it into the NAIDOC."
The Bendigo NAIDOC week launch also acknowledged the life of Jaara elder Uncle Brien Nelson, who passed away last month.
"He impressed upon people his calmness," Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation Chair Trent Nelson said. "It can be said that what Uncle Brien did was amazing."
"We are mourning the passing of a great man who was proud of his heritage and worked tirelessly to help others," City of Greater Bendigo Mayor Margaret O'Rourke said.
NAIDOC week will run through to Sunday, July 14. The full list of events can be viewed here.
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