The Victorian government has announced it will establish a truth-telling and justice process to formally recognise historic wrongs and address ongoing injustices that impact the lives of First Nations peoples as part of the state's pathway towards a Treaty.
The process will be developed in collaboration with the First Peoples’ Assembly - the democratically-elected body responsible for establishing a Treaty negotiation framework in Victoria - with work to begin immediately to determine the terms of reference and how the process will work.
The Assembly welcomed the government's commitment to truth-telling, and the newly announced collaborative process will be the first of its kind in Australia.
The Assembly will now engage with Victoria's Aboriginal community on the design of the truth-telling process.
Assembly co-Chair, Marcus Stewart, said the Victorian government’s acceptance of the need for a truth-telling process and its commitment to work with the Assembly on establishing one, would go down in history as a momentous decision.
“Truth is critically important to Treaty, so much so that without truth, there cannot be Treaty,” he said.
Co-Chair, Geraldine Atkinson, said the truth-telling process would help unite Victorians by providing a greater appreciation of the history shared by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the state.
“It can create a future Victoria that we all belong to, we all connect with, and that our children embrace as their own piece of history,” said Ms Atkinson.
Ms Atkinson said truth-telling processes have been shown to help in countries experiencing division and it will do the same here. Similar processes have been established in countries, including South Africa, Canada and New Zealand.
“Truth and reconciliation commissions have helped societies heal and recover from fractures and wounds across dozens of countries,” she said.
“Now it’s time for truth here as well.”
The First Peoples’ Assembly overwhelmingly voted to call for a truth-telling process at its third meeting last month.
The truth-telling process follows the Victorian government's announcement in March that it would establish a Stolen Generations Redress Scheme to address the trauma inflicted by the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and cultures.
Victoria's minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams, said committing to the truth-telling process brought Victoria closer to genuine reconciliation.
“We owe it to Aboriginal Victorians to be frank and honest about the injustices they have faced – and continue to face. This will help us to address these injustices and build a stronger Victoria on a foundation of trust.”