The journey to date
- Completed: Laws to protect Treaty
- The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018 (Treaty Act) was enacted as Australia’s first ever Treaty legislation.
- Completed: A representative Voice for First Peoples
- A Statewide election established the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria to represent the voice of First Peoples in the Treaty process.
- Completed: Truth-telling
- The Yoorrook Justice Commission is established to inquire into historic and contemporary injustices experienced by First Peoples across all areas of social, political and economic life, and the relationship between historical injustices and ongoing systemic injustices experienced today.
- Completed: An independent ‘Treaty Umpire’
- The Treaty Authority is independent from Government and will consist of five to seven members who will oversee and facilitate Treaty negotiations. The Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Act 2022, supports the establishment and ongoing operation of the Treaty Authority.
- Completed: Agreed rules and process for Treaty-making
- The Treaty Negotiation Framework sets out the process and rules for negotiating a Statewide Treaty and Traditional Owner Treaties between the State and First Peoples. The Framework establishes a Treaty process in Victoria that is inclusive and open to all First Peoples, as well as ensuring the protection of Traditional Owners with existing legal rights such as Native Title.
- Completed: Independent funding for Treaty negotiations
- The Self-determination Fund will provide First Peoples, including Traditional Owners, with a financial resource, independent from the State, to achieve ‘equal standing’ in Treaty negotiations. The Self-determination Fund will also build capacity, wealth and prosperity for First Peoples.
- Next step: Treaty negotiations commence
- With these elements in place, Treaty negotiations can now commence. The Treaty Authority, once operational, will support First Peoples groups to register for Treaty negotiations and will invite the State to join Treaty negotiations.
The Victorian Government committed to discussing Treaties with Aboriginal Victorians in early 2016.
The Aboriginal Treaty Working Group was established in July 2016 to consult with Aboriginal communities on the development of an Aboriginal Representative Body and to provide advice to community and Government on the next steps in the Treaty-making process. The Aboriginal Treaty Working Group led 16 community consultations across Victoria to seek the community’s guidance on how an Aboriginal representative body should operate and how it should represent community.
In January 2018, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission commenced its operations and continued the work started by the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group.
In March 2018, Aboriginal Treaty Working Group handed over its final report to the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission, delivering key recommendations on the design of the Aboriginal Representative Body.
There has been extensive work to engage all Victorians in the Treaty process, which has seen a significant increase in public awareness and support for Treaty via the award-winning campaign Deadly Questions.
The Deadly Questions campaign provided an opportunity for Victorians to learn directly from Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians about their cultures, history and issues facing their communities, as well as their aspirations for Treaty. The Deadly Questions website received more than 600,000 page visits and close to 4,000 questions were asked. Beyond this, the campaign reached a wide audience, with over 48 million online impressions.
The Treaty Act sets out a roadmap towards Treaty negotiations. The Treaty Act reflects the intent to work in genuine partnership with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians to give meaningful and practical effect to the right of self-determination.
The Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher AO, led the design and establishment of a state-wide Aboriginal Representative Body as required under the . In 2018, following extensive community consultation, the Commissioner recommended that the Aboriginal Representative Body be known as the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria comprises 31 members to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal voices across Victoria. The First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria's structure includes 11 reserved member seats representing each formally recognised Traditional Owner group and 21 general member seats. The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria's general member elections took place from September - October 2019.
On 9 December 2019, following the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria's elections, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings, declared the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria to be the Aboriginal Representative Body, as required by the .
The Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner’s appointment came to an end upon establishment of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
The Victorian Government and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria held their first official negotiating meeting in August 2020, marking a historic moment on Victoria’s path to Treaty. In keeping with COVID-19 restrictions, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams met virtually with First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria Co-Chairs Geraldine Atkinson and Marcus Stewart to formally commence Treaty negotiations.
As required under the , the State and the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria worked in partnership to develop a bespoke, culturally appropriate process for resolving disputes arising in relation to the Treaty elements.
The dispute resolution process governing the Treaty elements was formally signed by the Co-Chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 8 February 2021, marking the finalisation of the first Treaty element required in Phase 2.
The Deadly & Proud campaign was launched in 2021 to showcases stories of pride across the themes of ancient Aboriginal cultures, resilience, community and our collective path to Treaty, truth and justice. The campaign website featured an interactive map of Victoria that shares the stories told by 21 Aboriginal Victorians, which are all filmed on Country.
Building on the success of the Deadly Questions campaign, Deadly & Proud aimed to increase awareness of, and support for, Victoria’s Treaty and truth and justice processes. The campaign recognised that Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians are key to truth telling and sharing the stories that make up our past. Discussing shared histories, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, can build a collective future of which we can all be proud.
The Acting Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs together with the First People's Assembly of Victoria Co-Chairs announced the commitment to establish the Yoorrook Justice Commission at Coranderrk, near Healesville. This commitment means Victoria is the first and only jurisdiction in our nation to institute a formal truth-telling forum.
The First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria and the State agreed to develop protocols to give practical application to the guiding principles set out in the and to lay the foundations for a renewed and mature relationship with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians, represented in the Treaty process by the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria.
Following significant joint development work, the Protocols came into effect with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria's approval on 1 April 2021. The Protocols consist of:
- a State Treaty Partner Protocol to guide the conduct of the State and its entities throughout Phase 2 negotiations, taking into consideration the power imbalance between the parties
- a Reciprocal Protocol for Negotiations to guide the procedural conduct of both parties during negotiations and to clarify expectations during Phase 2.
Following 11 months of extensive work between the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria and the State, the Acting Premier, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams and First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria's Co-Chairs announced the appointment of the five Commissioners to the Yoorrook Justice Commission (Commission) and released the letters patent. This announcement was held at Yarra Bend Park, a site of sorrow and assimilation for First Nations people. The Aboriginal-led Commission was established as Australia’s first truth-telling process.
‘Yoorrook’ is the Wemba Wemba / Wamba Wamba word for ‘truth’. By establishing the Commission, the State has committed to formally reckoning with past and ongoing injustices and laying the foundations for healing with all First Peoples in Victoria.
The Treaty Authority is a nation-leading institution, drawing on international best practice but adapted for Victoria to ensure Aboriginal lore, law and cultural authority are observed and upheld.
Agreement on the Treaty Authority was marked on 10 June 2022 with a ceremonial signing at a First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria chamber meeting on Gadubanud Country of the Eastern Maar, attended by Premier Daniel Andrews and the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, Gabrielle Williams MP.
To acknowledge the significance of this milestone, the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria made a historic address to the Victorian Parliament on the importance of Treaty. Further information can be found on the and the .
The Treaty Negotiation Framework contains the ‘rules’ for Treaty in Victoria and is a required element under Victoria’s. It specifies who can enter Treaty negotiations, how negotiations are conducted, and what subject matter Treaty negotiations in Victoria can cover.
The Treaty Negotiation Framework was agreed between the State and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria on 20 October 2022.
Treaty-making in Victoria will include the negotiation of both a Statewide Treaty and local Traditional Owner Treaties. This reflects that self-determination can be exercised by all First Peoples in Victoria collectively, and also by individual Traditional Owner groups.
The Treaty Negotiation Framework guarantees an open and inclusive Treaty process, where all First Peoples groups in Victoria will have the opportunity to register for Treaty negotiations.
The Self-Determination Fund will provide an independent financial resource to support First Peoples to achieve ‘equal standing’ with the State in Treaty negotiations, and to build capacity, wealth and prosperity within their communities. The Self-Determination Fund is a required element under Victoria’s .
The Self-Determination Fund was agreed between the State and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria on 20 October 2022.
The State and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria have agreed and established all the elements required under Victoria’s Treaty Act, including a Treaty Authority, Self-Determination Fund, Treaty Negotiation Framework and a dispute resolution process. With these Treaty elements in place, Treaty negotiations can commence.
Reviewed 10 May 2023