Victoria’s Treaty process will reach another milestone on Monday when representatives from the state government and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria hold their first official negotiating meeting.
Aboriginal affairs minister Gabrielle Williams and assembly co-chairs Geraldine Atkinson and Marcus Stewart will meet virtually to begin the negotiations, which they have said would mark a “historic moment” on Victoria’s path to Treaty.
“We hope that this day will be looked back on as the starting point in our history when Aboriginal Victorians and the state government began to work towards greater reconciliation and a stronger future,” Atkinson said.
The meeting will take place just days after the federal government and Coalition of Peaks convenor Pat Turner launched the new historic National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
After Gunaikurnai man Uncle Nicky Moffatt delivers a Welcome to Country, a forward agenda and a timeline for future meetings will be set, and negotiation protocols and processes will be discussed.
Stewart said the Monday meeting would be “the first step towards a productive negotiation” between the state government and the First Peoples’ Assembly — the first ever democratically elected body of Aboriginal Victorians tasked with negotiating the framework leading to Treaty.
The assembly is made up of 21 members elected by Aboriginal Victorians across five voting regions, and 11 members appointed by each formally recognised Traditional Owner groups. They will work with the state government to establish a Treaty Authority to act as an “independent umpire” throughout the negotiation process, as well as a self-determination fund.
The process would be an opportunity for Victoria to heal past wounds, achieve reconciliation and build a stronger state while also celebrating the unique cultures and histories of Aboriginal Victorians, according to Williams.
“We’re determined to find a new way forward with our First Peoples, forging a new, shared future for us all,” she said.
Victoria is currently the only jurisdiction to have actioned both the Treaty and Truth elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Last week Williams announced the state government would provide $3.3 million over four years to support Aboriginal community-controlled organisations as part of Victoria’s response to the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
It would be the first time Aboriginal community-controlled organisations would be “empowered to take a leadership role in driving change through the Closing the Gap strategy”, Williams said.
Earlier this year the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission was recognised at IPAA Victoria’s annual Leadership in the Public Sector Awards for its role in establishing the First Peoples’ Assembly.