Victorian Indigenous leaders and international allies gathered in Melbourne for the 2019 Native Title Conference early this week to discuss land rights, recognition and treaty negotiations.
Douglas Smith

6 Jun 2019 - 6:55 AM  UPDATED 6 Jun 2019 - 6:56 AM

Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings, has vowed to help other states form a treaty with their Indigenous peoples, as he spoke at the 2019 Native Title Conference  

This year's Native Title conference based discussions around land rights, recognition and the establishment of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria later this year, a move Minister Jennings supported. 

"We will do whatever we can with other governments in this country to try to make them step up and recognise this wonderful opportunity to live to the empowerment of Aboriginal people," Mr Jennings said.  

"This has been a process that we have established through legislation: be supportive of a community-led approach," he said.

The assembly will replace the Treaty Advancement Commission and work with the state government to prepare for negotiations.

During his speech, former state Greens MP and Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, Lidia Thorpe asked Minister Jennings why the State Government had "closed down acknowledging the sovereignty of Victorian Aboriginal people" and why the "Stolen Generation" was "still waiting for the government to pay them out?"

Jennings responded saying that as a "Gubba [white person]," there was not anyone else "more unhappy about" the situation than him. 

He said he wouldn't be happy as a representative of the state government until representatives from all First Nations had a seat at the table in the state of Victoria. 

International experts say Indigenous treaties benefit the whole country 

Experts on treaty negotiations from Canada also travelled to Melbourne to attend the 2019 Native Title Conference, where they shared their country's experiences with treaties, detailing what has and has not worked for their First Nations peoples. 

Director of the British Columbia Treaty Commission, Mark Smith told NITV News that modern treaties in Canada had benefitted not just Indigenous peoples, but all British Columbians, and said it was an exciting opportunity for Australian governments to get on board. 

“What we’ve seen, and there’s a few treaties, a few modern treaties in British Columbia, that it really is a sharing of prosperity, it’s nation-building for Indigenous nations, the entire region benefits from that,” Mr Smith said.

“Treaties are about an ongoing relationship, it’s not a full and final settlement, it's not a one-time thing, it’s a start of a journey and that journey that doesn’t end,” he said.

The British Columbia Treaty Commission has been running for 25 years and is responsible for facilitating treaty negotiations among First Nations in BC.

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