• Taungurung Traditional Owner Mick Harding has become the first Aboriginal person in history to address the Victorian Cabinet. (NITV News)
Taungurung Traditional Owner Mick Harding has become the first Aboriginal person in history to address the Victorian Cabinet.
By
Laura Morelli

8 Aug 2017 - 5:45 PM  UPDATED 8 Aug 2017 - 5:45 PM

Taungurung Traditional Owner Mick Harding has become the first Aboriginal person in history to address the Victorian Cabinet.

Mr Harding presented an update to Cabinet on the work towards a Treaty with Victoria’s Traditional Owners, first in Dagungwurrung, (or commonly known as Taungurung) language and then in English.

The Co-Chair of the Aboriginal Interim Treaty Working group, Mick Harding says Australians need to work together collectively.

“I provided an Indigenous perspective so people can understand what a treaty means for Aboriginal people.”

“It was a great honour to be the first Aboriginal person to address the Victorian Cabinet and provide an update on the Victorian treaty process and what it means to my people,” he said.

“Aa Aa Yuwang-ngal-in marram nganjin budambun-djerring, which means in Taungurung language that Aboriginal Victorians and the Government need an agreement together that is reciprocal.”

For the first 25 years of his life, Mr Harding was unaware of his Aboriginality, but since the day he discovered his grassroots he’s made it his mission to know all he can about his ancestors.

“Once I found out about my heritage I kept getting involved in Indigenous affairs and stepping up to participate in more and more things for my community and here I am today.”

During the meeting he said a treaty was ‘long overdue’ and that Australia is ‘lagging behind’ compared to the rest of the world and the recognition of First Nations people.

“It’s a disgrace that Australia doesn’t have a treaty."

“I provided an Indigenous perspective so people can understand what a treaty means for Aboriginal people.”

Following 18 months of consultation, the Aboriginal Treaty Interim Working Group will now facilitate an assembly to design the representative body for Aboriginal Victorians. Once it is formed, constituted and then recognised by the Victorian Government, negotiation of a treaty can commence.

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins says the Andrews Labor Government is working towards treaty with Aboriginal Victorians.

“It’s a disgrace that Australia doesn’t have a treaty or hasn’t made a serious attempt up until the last 18 months to look at the issue of treaty with its First Nations People,” she said.

“Self-determination is underpinning our approach, it’s about putting Aboriginal Victorians at the heart of the decision making processes of Government and Mick’s attendance at Cabinet is a small expression of that.”

Ms Hutchins says ‘It has to be a journey together and we’re on that journey’.

“Reconciliation, Treaty - they’re all extremely important parts of self-determination. That was our commitment to Aboriginal Victorians in the lead up to the last election, to put at the heart of all our decision making the matter of self-determination.”

Victoria has more than 35 traditional Aboriginal language groups and Mr Harding said he also wanted to capture the importance of preserving culture and language. He says it’s time for a ‘real fundamental change’.

“Wouldn’t it be great to see languages other than English that aren’t European or Asian but in fact local Indigenous languages taught to every child in Australia?"

Exiting the Cabinet meeting Mr Harding paused to express one more thing to the room.

“I told everyone that it takes people with compassion to do things like this - to show true leadership.”

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