Treaty, yeah: Victoria moves ahead with plans for Indigenous settlement

By Stephen Easton

October 30, 2017

Australia’s two flags – british and aboriginal – flying together in downtown melbourne

As the federal government cops flak for deciding not to hold a referendum on whether an advisory council representing Indigenous Australians should be enshrined in the constitution, the Victorian government is moving ahead with its plans for a treaty between the state’s government and its traditional owners.

The process will be placed under the watch of a statutory officer, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, and recruitment for the role is now underway. Whoever takes on the position will work with the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group, which was established last July to open early talks with members of the state’s Aboriginal communities and try to move forward in a consultative fashion.

The commission will “strengthen independence for the Victorian Aboriginal community on the path to treaty, and keep them at the heart of the process,” according to a statement from Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins.

The new body, which will only be temporary, is to be established early next year and funded with a slice of the $28.5 million committed to the treaty project in this year’s budget. The government’s Aboriginal affairs arm explains:

“The Commission’s primary role will be to operationalise the outcomes of the Aboriginal Community Assembly and establish the Aboriginal Representative Body.

“This will include:

  • establishing the Aboriginal Representative Body including facilitating elections
  • maintaining momentum of the treaty process
  • consulting Aboriginal Victorians
  • providing research and advice on the treaty process
  • communicating progress on treaty to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians.”

Once the Aboriginal Representative Body is established, the commission’s work will be done and it will be dissolved (so any acronym confusion between the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner and the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre will be short lived).

Next, the Aboriginal Representative Body will hammer out a “treaty negotiation framework” and negotiations will start after it is agreed upon.

“The appointment of the Commissioner is a landmark next step towards establishing the Victorian Aboriginal community and the Victorian Government as equal partners in the treaty process,” said Hutchins, who couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a dig at the Commonwealth government’s reluctance to back the push for Indigenous representation.

“At the same time as the Turnbull Government dismisses self determination as too hard we are continuing to advance treaty while putting Aboriginal Victorians at the centre of decision making,” she said.

The pay range for the commissioner is $206,539 to $330,582, and applications for the role are open until November 7.

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