Western bureaucracy will be removed from Victoria’s Treaty process in favour of grounding the process in Indigenous lore and culture, in a move hailed as “decolonisation in action”.
In a historic step on Tuesday, Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gabrielle Williams will introduce legislation to create a Treaty Authority separate from government to oversee negotiations and resolve disputes.
The move has been lauded by the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria which has been pushing for the independent umpire since the process began.
Assembly co-chairman and Nira illim bulluk man Marcus Stewart said the authority would ensure Treaty negotiations were not restrained by western concepts.
“This is about stepping outside of the colonial system,” he said.
“We’ve said to government, if you’re serious about Treaty, you’ll do it our way, and to their credit, that’s what they’re doing.
“The Government is relinquishing some of its control and power and together we are creating new institutions that will be guided by Aboriginal lore, law and cultural authority that has been practiced on these lands for countless generations.”
Ms Williams said the introduction of the Treaty Authority Bill was a milestone in the state’s nation-leading efforts on self-determination.
While established by agreement, the Bill gives the Treaty Authority the legal powers to facilitate negotiations and resolve disputes.
Assembly co-chairwoman and Bangerang-Wiradjuri Elder Geraldine Atkinson said the agreement showed how modern Victoria could benefit from traditional knowledge.
“Western court systems are combative by default, whereas the Treaty Authority will respect our culture,” she said.
“The starting point will always be dialogue.
“I’m really excited to see our culture, lore and law being ingrained into the very building blocks of Treaty-making.”
Agreement on the Treaty Authority will be marked with a ceremonial signing with the First Peoples’ Assembly.
An independent panel to be agreed to by the Assembly and the Government will appoint Treaty Authority members, all of whom will be Indigenous.