Deputy QLD Premier Jackie Trad has announced a "conversation pathway" for a First Nations Treaty in the Sunshine State but concedes the process could take years.
Jennifer Scherer

15 Jul 2019 - 5:31 PM  UPDATED 15 Jul 2019 - 5:32 PM

Deputy Queensland Premier and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partnerships Minister Jackie Trad launched the State Government's 'Tracks to Treaty' commitment at a Brisbane NAIDOC ceremony on Sunday,

"The Palaszczuk Government is determined to work in partnership with First Nations Queenslanders and the broader community to forge a new relationship; a re-framed relationship , a just relationship, an equal relationship," Ms Trad said.

Stating that "actions speak louder than words," Ms Trad announced the Indigenous reform agenda will acknowledge that "negotiated settlement arrangements should have been part of those first encounters 250 years ago."

A people's panel will be led by Indigenous leader Dr Jackie Huggins and former federal ­attorney-general Michael Lavarch alongside ambassadors including Dame Quentin Bryce, Mick Gooda, Josephine Bourne and Kerry O'Brien.

"We know that in terms of the Uluru Statement from the Heart that there is more that we can be doing in terms of elevating the voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders to the democratic fabric of our society," Ms Trad said.

"We've come to this with no pre-ordained outcome, we want to have a conversation: a respectful, inclusive conversation on this issue, and that will determine the length of time we will take."

Through 'Tracks to Treaty', the state of Queensland has joined Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory who have each commenced their own Indigenous treaty processes.

 Ms Trad acknowledged the creation of a First Nations Treaty is not a straight-forward process and vowed to involve community in the consultation process with the creation of a treaty working group.

“This is a conversation with no prejudice or preconceived outcomes because we acknowledge that Treaty means different things to different people," Ms Trad said.

"It may be that we have multiple treaties and not one, it may be that voice precedes treaty but what we do know beyond doubt is that it is time to start this conversation."

Response from Community

Prominent Aboriginal Elder Wayne 'Coco' Wharton told NITV News the Treaty conversation is "a step in the right direction, given they’ve got the right people there [on the panel] and that they will be fair dinkum about it."

"People have to be very careful about what you want in a Treaty," Mr Wharton said.

"[Treaty] can’t just be a talking point, it can’t just be a point to make people feel good - it has to be a practical document, a working document."

The Kooma man believes community consultation is key and said Ms Trad needs to get aspect right, particularly in light of the prospect of multiple treaties.

"It’s about a document that goes a long way to ending the plight of our people and bringing our people out of poverty and to a position where they can manage their lives properly," he said.

"Our rights have to be enshrined in this treaty and those rights [include] the right to water and particularly the collective ownership of the Artesian Basin."

Waanyi, Garawa and Gangalidda actor and activist Alec Doomadgee said the process is a "good start - but talk is cheap."

“The treaties need to be led by our mob and the narrative has to be led by our mob as well... we can’t be sitting over in the corner being told how it’s going to be, we have to have a real voice in the conversation," Mr Doomadgee told NITV News.

"We don't actually need Treaty. Aboriginal people don't - we belong to this country. It's not us who need the paperwork, it's the foreigners who invaded our country."

Leading Murri activist Sam Watson from Brisbane told NITV News that he believes the Treaty was a "media stunt".

"If it wasn't so tragic it would be an absolute joke, but they're just using our people in order to score some cheap headline," he said.

"Talking to Murri people around community yesterday and today ... No-one has come down to the Murri community and asked for our views."

Watson believes Treaty is a distraction from more critical issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the state.

"You ask our community what our top ten priorities are - right at the top you have the critical issues: proper housing, proper employment, proper supportive education.

"You have the criminal justice problem, you have the self harming and youth suicide problem, right down the bottom you might have some mention of some sort of Treaty.

"But right now we have our families, our communities in deep crisis."

Michael Mansell: If the choice is between Treaty or Voice, I say Treaty
OPINION: Activist and lawyer, Michael Mansell critiques the Voice to Parliament proposal and asks, is this as good as it gets or should we all aim higher?