VICTORIAN Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher AO, was in Sale last week.
She hosted an gathering for local Aboriginal people, focusing on the treaty process.
The Sale session was the last in her trip across Gippsland, speaking to people from all walks of life.
“I want to update people about what’s happening, and make sure community has the facts,” she said.
“What I’m doing is, as the Treaty Advancement Commission for Victoria, I’m talking to Aboriginal people about the process, and where I’m going, and what’s possible if we get treaties.”
It’s a complex process, and Ms Gallagher said there was momentum building.
The role of commissioner is not to negotiate a treaty, but to set-up a “road map”, and a statewide Aboriginal representative body.
Ms Gallagher is also in charge of developing the electoral roll and voting.
“The Victorian Aboriginal community will go to the polls, sometime in the first half of next year ... it’ll be up to about 30 Aboriginal people that will be elected,” she explained.
She said their role will be to negotiate with the state government regarding treaties.
While the state opposition has “made it clear” they don’t support treaties at a state-based level, Ms Gallagher said “the whole world is watching what’s going on Victoria”.
“It’s recognising displaced Aboriginal people from their own country, their own traditional ancestral lands,” she said.
“Treaties are not about your backyard, or your farms — it never will be, so don’t fear them, embrace it.”
On the day, representatives from Indigenous groups and individuals were able to have their say on the process, including Ramahyuck District Aboriginal Corporation.
Ramahyuck chief executive David Morgan said the organisation indicated it would set up a workstation in Sale, to help get information out and for electoral roll registration.
While there will be future state-wide meetings for elders and the wider indigenous community, Mr Morgan said having more meetings for local people, and non-Aboriginal people, were important.
“It’d be great if there was an opportunity for the general public to say yes, we support a treaty,” he said.
“It’s people’s right to say how they feel, but unless we ask, we won’t know.”
Ms Gallagher said she was encouraged by the number of non-Aboriginal people who had been supportive of the process.
“At Booroondarra in Melbourne, I had 80 non-Aboriginal people turn up to a night forum, freezing cold, and it almost brought me to tears at the comments of those people — things like, as a nation, we Australians cannot move on unless our First Nations people are recognised in the way they need to be recognised,” she said.
“It’s not an easy road, it’s a complex matter, and colonisation had a humongous impact on our cultures, and more importantly our traditional way of doing business.
“So if we were sitting down tomorrow not long after they planted that flag from the First Fleet, it’d be easy to negotiate treaties because our traditional way of doing business was still there, but because it’s been smashed around through colonisation, we now have to work out how we do that.
“There’s a lot of Aboriginal people who’ve been displaced through colonisation, and if they’re not traditional owners from this country, then what’s their role, how do they fit in, and will they benefit?
Those conversations are happening all across Victoria.”
For more information, phone 1800 TREATY (1800 873 289), or visit victreatyadvancement.org.au.