Australia and its states are far behind their international counterparts on development of treaties and self-determination for Indigenous peoples, which means there are many experiences to learn from.
A Victorian delegation will visit Wellington this month to learn from the New Zealand public sector’s experience working with Māori communities.
Representatives from the Victorian Public Sector Commission and ANZSOG will spend three days meeting with Māori leaders in politics and business, to learn from New Zealand’s experience of having the Treaty of Waitangi as the foundation for their relationship with the country’s First People.
In addition to those meetings, Aboriginal VPS employees from the commission and the Department of Premier and Cabinet will meet with officials from NZ agencies including the Ministry of Social Development, the Auckland Co-Design Lab and the Federation of Māori Authorities.
The tour will examine the New Zealand approach to Indigenous policy, with its emphasis on local control, self-determination, support of the Māori economy and incorporating Indigenous knowledge and culture into New Zealand’s national story.
Taryn Lee, director of Aboriginal affairs policy in Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, and a member of the delegation, said there was scope to share lessons, despite the differences between the two countries and peoples.
“In Victoria, Aboriginal people have their own unique needs and aspirations when it comes to policy and treaty making, but we still have a lot we can learn and share with our counterparts in New Zealand,” Lee said.
“We are pursuing a self-determination agenda and the development of a treaty. This is not new internationally, and it is important to see what other countries are doing with their Indigenous peoples.
“Although we will still need to develop something that fits the unique needs and aspirations of Aboriginal Victorians – it won’t be a carbon copy.
“The Victorian Government has a commitment to self-determination and engaging with Aboriginal people, making sure we have a real say in the design and development of policy that affects us. That is a cultural change and something we can share with people in New Zealand.”
Legislation has been passed by the Victorian Parliament to begin negotiations for a Treaty and the Office of the Treaty Advancement Commissioner has been created to consult with Aboriginal Victorians and create a representative body to negotiate a treaty. Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher has said that there is strong support for a Treaty, and her goal is to have a commission of representatives set up by July next year.
The exchange is also of interest to ANZSOG’s mission of improving public sector leadership with sound research on past programs and policies. Professor Catherine Althaus pointed to self-determination programs, such as the Whānau Ora (family heath) initiative, which have sparked debate in NZ about its pro and cons.
“We want to learn how New Zealand’s public sector leaders have built and maintained their relationships with Māori people, including what they have done to successfully support the development of the Māori economy,” Dr Althaus said.