Co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria have urged all parliamentarians to support the establishment of an independent umpire that will oversee Treaty negotiations.
Victorian Parliament on Wednesday suspended standing orders to hear the co-chairs speak alongside members of the Assembly on the parliament floor.
Assembly co-chair and Nira illim bulluk man Marcus Stewart said all members of parliament should respect and listen to the democratic voice of Indigenous people in the state by backing the Treaty Authority agreement.
“The journey to Treaty needs to be guided by First Peoples,” he said.
“This agreement we’ve reached with the government reflects what our people want – it’s an umpire that they can trust because it will be led by First Peoples, be grounded in our culture, lore and law and be completely independent from government.”
The Bill has the support of the Labor government, Greens, and the Liberal and National opposition.
Liberal MP Tim Smith, who resigned as shadow attorney general after crashing his car while drunk, is the only member of the opposition to indicate he will vote against the legislation.
The agreement, signed two weeks ago between the Assembly and the government, will create an authority outside of state bureaucracy.
Assembly co-chair and Bangerang-Wiradjuri Elder aunty Geraldine Atkinson said Aboriginal people had been let down and betrayed by the colonial system on too many occasions.
“First Peoples in Victoria are in the process of making history,” she said.
“I have been encouraged hearing politicians from across the political spectrum express support for a Treaty umpire that will be truly independent from government and led by First Peoples.
“This legislation is an opportunity for all Parliamentarians to show they are willing to walk with us on the journey to Treaty.”