• The Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission has released several changes to the Treaty process. (NITV)Source: NITV
The model for the body which will oversee Victoria's treaty negotiations is now open for feedback after being presented at the statewide gathering.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

28 Sep 2018 - 12:12 PM  UPDATED 28 Sep 2018 - 12:25 PM

Hundreds of people from clans across Victoria have met to discuss the next stage in the state's treaty process, with the Treaty Advancement Body's proposed model now open for feedback.

Following the Elders' forum on Monday, around 400 people attended the statewide gathering in Melbourne on Tuesday.

"This was the commission's opportunity to present to the statewide forum the proposed model of a representative body," Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher AO told NITV News.

"I was tasked to do that, and as a result of the past two years of consultations and engagement with Aboriginal communities, they came up with some guiding principles for us to keep in mind when they design a Representative Body. 

Mob also had the opportunity to ask questions about the process so far, and moving forward.

"We have presented the model and we're already getting some awesome suggestions, we're getting feedback," Ms Gallagher said.

The proposed representative body would initially consist of 28 elected representatives, plus 17 general seats open to all Aboriginal Victorians, as well as 11 reserved seats - one for each 'formally recognised' Traditional Owner group.

The commissioner said she had also committed to include an Elders' voice for cultural strength and integrity.

However people will have to vote for who represents them based on where they live today, rather on their traditional country.

Victorian Greens MP and Gunnai-Kurnai and Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe is in favour of a second model created by the Aboriginal Land Justice Group, which would see a body made up of 76 Indigenous representatives - two from each language group in Victoria.

It would also have a Sovereign Elders' council, with one representative from each surviving clan, and 12 executives would lead decision-making.

Statewide gathering to discuss treaty representative model
The proposed model for the treaty representative body will be discussed at next week's gathering, but there's already disagreement over its design.

Ms Thorpe told NITV News the main concern with the commission's model is this issue of representation.

"It comprises of 11 nations, we have 38 nations. Who decides on what nations make the cut or not? The model doesn't have a mechanism in place to ensure there's not heavily loaded by one mob," Ms Thorpe said.

"It is the commission's proposal. What about the communities proposal? What about the clans' proposal? What about the 38 language group nations' proposal?

"The commissioner said that she has given four weeks for other proposals to come forward. My question to the commissioner on that is what happens after the four weeks? Who makes the decision on the final model?"

Ms Thorpe said on the day that the alternative proposal had been passed around the tables, and had been receiving positive feedback.

"People are talking about that model, certainly the Elders support that model, so why can't we have a debate on the two models," she said.

Uncle Larry Walsh also called for a more grassroots approach.

"At the moment, it would seem to me that it looks like the government is leading it because it's coming from the top, down," he said.

"Lucky for us, we've now got that month to perhaps say, well maybe you're partly right, we do need a state body, but maybe we need to do a local body, to regional body, to state body."

Although some attendees felt there are issues that need ironing out, many were positive about the process going ahead.

"I think it's great, I really do. It's a really good starting block because we need to start from somewhere, and I think this is fantastic. I've really thoroughly enjoyed yesterday and today," Aunty Lyn Warren said.

Attendees will now have a month to take the information back to their communities for discussion, before providing the commissioner with their suggestions and feedback on the proposal.

"What treaty means to me is about that empowerment for us as a peoples, there are collective benefits for all Aboriginal people that live in Victoria that could fall out of a treaty," Ms Gallagher said.

"But also, more exciting, the representative body, once it’s up and running, if it gets the treaty framework right, clans will be able to negotiate their own treaties at a local level. And that is a long time coming. We’ve waited far too long."

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