Treaty Legislation Passes Victoria Lower House

(L-R) Richard Franklin, Natalie Hutchins (Vic. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs), Mick Harding and Jill Gallagher, AO (Vic. Treaty Advancement Commissioner)

“Creating a new path”

And what is at the heart of the legislation we are debating today is forming an Aboriginal Representative Body for the State… It is up to Aboriginal Victorians to decide [who is to be on that Body].

Hon. Natalie Hutchins

Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

Below is the full script (slightly modified) and audio of the special report aired on Connection Matters on Friday the 8th of June 2018.

Yesterday morning, the Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins, accompanied by Jill Gallagher, Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Mick Harding, Chairman of the Aboriginal Working Group, and Richard Franklin, Aboriginal screenwriter, musician and activist took to the steps of Parliament in Melbourne for a press conference. 

The event was, of course, the passing of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 through the lower house of this state.

When asked about an expected deadline for treaty discussions to commence, the Minister responded that she was expecting that the democratic elections for the members of the Aboriginal Representative Body would be by the middle of next year, 2019.

This was actually revealed here on Connection Matters earlier this week in an interview we conducted with the Commissioner, Jill Gallagher.

We can also reveal that in other discussions with Ms Gallagher, consultation is occurring within the community as to the age of Aboriginal Victorians who will be able to vote, with support being expressed for Aboriginal people as young as 16.

Possibly one of the most disappointing aspects of the passage through the lower house was a distinct lack of support from the State Coalition. It was reported in The Guardian that Matthew Guy, the leader of the State Opposition has stated that he was opposed to a state-based treaty and that a national approach would be a much better way to go.

Given that Labor does not hold a balance of power in the Legislative Council – the victorian parliament’s upper house – when Minister Hutchins was asked if she foresaw any difficulties in the bill passing that house, she not surprisingly expressed her disappointment in the Coalition.

The Minister didn’t hold back in her further disappointment in the Coalition’s apparent lack of community consultation.

A journalist then asked if the minister believed that a treaty process underway here in Victoria could kickstart a similar process in other states.

In commenting on the proposed amendments put forward by Greens MP Lidia Thorpe regarding sovereignty, the minister passed over to Mick Harding, the Chairman of the Aboriginal Working Group.

One of the major issues that confronted – and according to the Greens MP Lidia Thorpe still confronts this bill is the lack of reference to “Sovereignty.” When asked if the legislation should include references to Sovereignty, Mr Harding responded that the legislation was a framework and that sovereignty was to be determined by the to-be-elected Aboriginal Representative Body.

Of particular interest is that Mr Harding is keen for the definition of sovereignty to be put also into the hands of the community.

Without doubt, Sovereignty is a significant issue in this debate and The Minister was quick to follow up with additional comments.

Putting it all into perspective – the efforts of the working group and the support of so many members of the community – Commissioner stressed that a lot more conversations need to take place in order to arrive at the point where we have a democratically elected Aboriginal Representative Body.

When asked about what treaty actually meant, Jill Gallagher responded:

Asked about if this could impact on possible national level, she said:

Richard Franklin, Gunditjmara man, well known as a musician, playwright and Aboriginal activist, commented:

Mr Franklin also took the opportunity to afford the State Opposition a lesson in differentiating between issues that were political and those that were human.

Mr Franklin stressed that the treaty process will be for ‘our children and our children’s children.

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