Victoria’s Upper House Just Passed Australia’s First-Ever Treaty Bill

Victoria has passed Australia‘s first-ever treaty legislation, a historic step forward for the government to finally and formally commit to negotiations between the Victorian Parliament and the state’s Aboriginal people.

The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill passed the Legislative Council tonight. Leader of the government in the Legislative Council, Gavin Jennings, told the chamber there had been “sorry history associated with the last 200 years” of colonisation and the country’s first peoples were “worthy of respect and not treated with respect”. 

“There is unfinished business in this nation of addressing those matters that should never have come to be.

“We want to create a safe space in the first instance for Aboriginal people to determine the way in which we would right the wrongs of the past and deliver justice.

“We are not convinced you can wait for a national process that has never, ever delivered in relation to righting these wrongs.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins celebrated the news via their respective Twitters:

Supported by The Greens, the bill allows for the creation of a democratically-elected Aboriginal Representative Body that will help design the treaty negotiation frameworks. This representative body will be elected by Victorian Aboriginals by mid-2019.

More than 7,500 Aboriginal community members contributed to pushing this treaty forward so that Victoria can properly recognise and celebrate their history, culture, and status unique to the state.

Hutchins described the treaty as a “historic moment in the history of our state and our country, and the start of our journey to Treaty.” 

Earlier this year in March Hutchins, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher AO, and members of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group presented the bill on the floor of parliament.

Gallagher will continue to work with Victorian Traditional Owners, Elders and young people to elect members for the representative body.