" We have never, in the history of this country, been so close to achieving Treaty.” - Jill Gallagher, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner.
Victoria is on track to become the first state to formally sign a treaty with its First Peoples as the election of a democratically elected representative body is scheduled to take place in July 2019.
The treaty process took a decisive positive turn about 4 years ago when the state Government asked Aboriginal people what self-determination really meant for them.Unsurprisingly, Aboriginal communities demanded a treaty.
It is not the first time a demand for treaty was made. However, it was the first time a state government had expressed willingness to explore the possibility of a state-based treaty.
In January 2018, the Treaty Advancement Commission was set up as an independent office. Jill Gallagher, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner says her role as a Commissioner is not to negotiate but to facilitate the process leading up to a treaty.
“Victoria was hit hard by colonisation. Our traditional ways of making treaties, our traditional elders decision-making mechanisms have been destroyed,” Jill Gallagher said in an exclusive interview to NITV radio.
"We had to devise modern day mechanisms to negotiate with a modern day government. So the community had to work out a modern way of electing a voice to negotiate treaty."
Enrollments are now open right across the state for the democratic election of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria in July this year.
This Assembly will comprise 33 traditional owners from right across every mob in Victoria. It will be an independent, democratic voice for Aboriginal people in the treaty process.