Professor Chris Sarra called newly re-elected Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey to discuss a treaty when they found “the courage” during his acceptance speech for "NAIDOC Person of the Year" in Darwin on Friday.
The NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Awards take place each year to celebrate achievement in Australia's Indigenous community.
“When you are ready, and when you have the courage and you are bold enough, I am ready on behalf of my people and my people are ready to speak with you about a treaty,” Professor Sarra said standing in front of a 1,500-strong audience who responded with a standing ovation.
A treaty is a legally binding agreement between Indigenous people and the government to formally acknowledge the fundamental ownership of the land before colonisation.
Professor Sarra believes that such agreement can also help fight disadvantage in areas such as education where Indigenous students are “rotting in classrooms that no minister or millionaire would send their children to”.
“For tens of thousands of years, our sovereign nations shared borders, trade and travel,” he said.
“The past 200 years, by contrast, were everything the past 50,000 years were not.
“In the blink of an historical eye we were banished to the edges of the worlds we'd governed for eons.”
Calls for a treaty have been mounting this year, including an historic discuss between the government and communities with the aim to form an agreement in that state.
In June, Mr Turnbull said he did not support a treaty.
"To introduce another element, a treaty, the terms of which is unknown, the nature of which is unknown, adds a level of uncertainty that puts at risk the constitutional recognition process," the Prime Minister told media.
His comment came after Bill Shorten told ABC’s Q&A program earlier in the month that he believed the relationship between Indigenous people and the Australian government could strengthen with a treaty.
"But do I think that we should have our first Australians mentioned in the national birth certificate, the constitution? Yes," Mr Shorten said.
"Do I think we need to move beyond just constitutional recognition to talking about what a post-constitutional recognition settlement with Indigenous people looks like? Yes I do."
"Could it look like a treaty?" asked host Tony Jones. "Yes," he replied.