• Palawa Elder Uncle Michael Mansell spoke at the Sovereignty, Treaty, Constitutional Recognition Gathering on Thursday. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
The Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group hosts an independent gathering on the topics of Sovereignty, Treaty and Constitutional Recognition in Melbourne.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

6 May 2019 - 2:37 PM  UPDATED 6 May 2019 - 2:39 PM

A grassroots meeting about Sovereignty, Treaty and Constitutional Recognition was held in Melbourne last week to address concerns held by some members of the community - in particular, the Victorian Treaty process.

The two-day event held in Melbourne's CBD was hosted by the Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group (VTOLJ), and was spearheaded by former Greens MP,  Lidia Thorpe.

The event was funded by community and philanthropists, with $22,000 raised to enable the meeting to be independent of both the state and federal governments, said Ms Thorpe.

"I've been talking to people around the country and they've been so disenfranchised by the whole agenda around the Statement from the Heart, the Voice to Parliament, and the Treaty process in the Northern Territory and Victoria, and now Queensland," Ms Thorpe said.

"People just aren't getting the information or coming together to have good, healthy, respectful debates, so I thought let's just run one ourselves, and it has just been amazing.

"The conversations that are happening, the learning from our old people and from our young people, academics, barristers, and Aboriginal QC's who are providing their views has just been so valuable."

Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher, participated in the event alongside Northern Territory Treaty Commissioner, Mick Dodson.

While she declined to comment to NITV on her involvement in the event, Ms Gallagher said on one panel that the Victorian Treaty process hasn't been easy.

“We all know we are in truly uncharted waters. Nowhere in this country have we ever been closer before to creating Treaties,” Ms Gallagher said.

“It’s going to be difficult and complex, and there’s moments when it feels like it’s all too hard but we are determined and we need to be. We can’t stop," she said.

"We need to be bold and we need to be courageous. We want our communities to be thriving in a way they have not been since colonisation."

Other notable speakers throughout the event included Gunditjmara Elder Uncle Robbie Thorpe, Palawa Elder Uncle Michael Mansell, and Wangan and Jagalingou man Tony McAvoy SC.

During the discussions, Ms Thorpe maintained that it was a safe space for people to respectfully express their views and opinions.

Youth vote

In recent weeks, criticism of the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission has emerged in regards to the level of involvement that youth have had in the Treaty process.

Registrations for voting is set to begin later this month with people as young as 16 able to vote, however some youth say they feel they do not have enough information to make an informed decision.

Young Gunditjmara woman, Sissy Austin, said she felt as though the youth have been left behind on the Treaty journey.

"We're often asked what our opinion is on Treaty and it has been really hard to form an individual opinion on Treaty because of the lack of information for Aboriginal young people in Victoria," Ms Austin told NITV News.

The Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission has responded to community concerns by hosting a string of Facebook Live discussions. Ms Gallagher is also due to make an appearance at the Koorie Youth Summit on 11-12 May.

Ms Austin said she is looking forward to a panel discussion on Treaty at the summit and hopes the discussion carries over from the VTOLJ event.

"This panel here has been a really open and safe space for young people to have their voices heard and to be informed from our Elders as well," she said.

Survey reveals broad support for Indigenous Voice
Fresh data reveals that a majority of voters are ready to back an Indigenous voice to Parliament.
Victorian treaty movement embraces young voters and hi-tech democracy
As Victorian Aboriginals work towards a treaty with the state they are moving with the times, adopting online voting and dropping the eligibility age.
Treaty Commission extends voting rights on Rep Body
Voting for the representative body will be open to all Victorian Traditional Owners, even those live overseas or elsewhere in Australia.