• First Peoples' Assembly members during their inaugural meeting at The Parliament of Victoria in Melbourne on December 9, 2019. (AAP)Source: AAP
The First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria has met with the state government, after seven months of consultations, for the first official meeting to negotiate the process of future treaty making in the state.
Keira Jenkins

3 Aug 2020 - 4:41 PM  UPDATED 3 Aug 2020 - 4:46 PM

The First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria has met with the state government for the first time to begin negotiations on the process for treaty making in Victoria.

Assembly co-chair Marcus Stewart said while the discussions did not include formal negotiation of treaty framework, it is important to be on the same page when it comes to processes before treaty making begins.

"Government have a history of not holding their end up the bargain up when it comes to negotiating with our people so we see it as critical,getting these processes in place and getting them right," the Nira illim bullik man of the Taungurung Nation told NITV News.

"Today we discussed a code of conduct to how parties work towards how we go forward with negotiations, and we discussed timelines.

"This is reshaping the relationship and how we do business together."

The meeting also included discussions on a dispute resolution process.

This meeting, which was held over video-conference on Monday, comes after seven months of meetings and consultations with Victorian people.

Mr Stewart said it had been 'a historic day'.

"For us to meet today, for both parties to come together, it's historic, it's significant and it's a critical moment in time," he said.

'The work of our Elders'

Assembly co-chair Aunty Geraldine Atkinson agreed that the meeting had been historic.

For the Bangerang and Wiradjuri woman, Monday's discussions were the culmination of the past seven months' consultations and the groundwork done before the existence of the assembly.

She said this was the start of formal negotiations, which would not be able to happen without this first step.

"It got us to the point that all of the work that we've been doing, not just the work that the First People's Assembly has been doing but the work that our Elders have been fighting for and advocating for and what our Elders' ancestors would have wanted - that we can sit down with the state and discuss a treaty process," she said.

"That's going to ensure that we get good outcomes for our communities."

Chair of the Assembly's Treaty Authority Committee Ngarra Murray agreed, saying there's been a lot of work done in the lead up to this point, but the Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung and Dhudhuroa woman said it is also important to follow each step in the process.

"We've done a lot of groundwork, unpacking processes and structures, decolonising ways of doing business so I believe that we've come up with some strong principles and positions on this process," she said.

"But it is a big process and there is many elements to it so we're just following the steps and the processes."

'Positive start'

Ms Murray said she's proud of what has already been achieved but also knows that there is a long road ahead.

"There is lots of work to be done, and as everyone is aware we are in a health crisis here in Victoria with COVID-19 but I'm really proud of my colleagues on the assembly and the way that we've progressed and the way that we've worked," she said.

"Today I'm feeling positive. I think that as we progress towards treaties for our people, it's critical that we have respectful and authentic relationships with government.

"This will be key in our discussions and also exercising our human rights.

"I think it's a positive start and as we progress treaties, there will be complexities from time to time, but as long as we're respectful and we're showing good faith and we're being open and honest in our dialogue with the government we'll be able to resolve challenges as we go along."

For Ms Atkinson, she said what keeps her going in this process is knowing the difference the work that is being done now, will make to future generations. 

"Why we're doing this work, it's the work that our Elders and ancestors have progressed," she said.

"We want to put it in place so that our children's children will reap the benefits from a treaty process."

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