• The aboriginal flag flies above the Victorian parliament in Melbourne. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Yorta Yorta Council of Elders is not convinced a treaty with Victoria is the best way forward.
Brooke Fryer

26 Jun 2019 - 12:45 PM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2019 - 12:45 PM

Aboriginal Elders from north-eastern Victoria have said they do not support a treaty, describing the process "as a trip wire and only a pathway to assimilation”.

In a statement shared on the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation’s (YYNAC) Facebook page, the Yorta Yorta Council of Elders said it will not be appointing a Yorta Yorta representative to a "farcical" representative body or participating in the People's Assembly.

However, the open letter from the Council of Elders said it is not stopping anyone from becoming involved in the treaty process but made clear that any person doing so would be standing “as a Victorian Aboriginal” representative and not a representative of the Yorta Yorta.

Yorta Yorta woman Monica Morgan, CEO of YYNAC, told NITV News she fully supports the decision by the Council of Elders.

“When the Elders make the decision, they make the decision for me because that’s how it works,” she said.

Ms Morgan said the Council of Elders has decided against treaty because Victoria's government functions under a representative of the Crown of England: Governor of Victoria Linda Dessau AC.

“The Crown has a role in what is happening and of course the British are the ones who invaded our country,” she said.

“We are Yorta Yorta. We belong to a whole Country before the states and governments were built.”

In April, the Victorian treaty advancement commission announced the creation of The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, an elected body that will negotiate a framework for a treaty with the state government on behalf of First Nations Victorians. 

Elections for the body were set for July, but the deadline for nominations has now been moved back to mid-August in response to community demands.

Operating independently from the state government, the assembly will have 33 representatives chosen by Indigenous Victorians from five different voting areas – four from regional Victoria and one in the city of Melbourne.

The treaty advancement commission's creation of the assembly came after three years of consultation with Indigenous communities across the state.

NT Treaty progresses

The Northern Territory is also making strides towards its treaty with NT Treaty Commissioner informing NITV News that community consultation will start in March, 2020

Prof Dodson said he needs to work out what the NT community wants in terms of treaty and “what a treaty might achieve” before the negotiating process starts with the territory government,

“We are not negotiating a treaty,” he said. “We are preparing a discussion paper by March next year.” Prof Dodson said the paper will set out the “terms of reference”. 

His appointment was followed by the historic Barunga Agreement - an unprecedented document of understanding between the NT government and all four of the Territory's land councils.

Prof Dodson said he needs to consider what sorts of interests there are among communities and organisations in the territory for a treaty and whether it would be an umbrella treaty or regional treaties based on language groups.

At the time of his appointment, Prof Dodson said that "we as a nation must come face to face with our dark and traumatic history”.

“We must confront the impact of colonisation and begin the process of acknowledgement, recognition and healing,” he said.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said in February that Treaty would be "an important part of the journey towards empowerment for Aboriginal people”.

Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister vows to help other states on treaty
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.