Yoo-rrook Justice Commissioner Sue-Anne Hunter is inviting First Nations people in Victoria to shape Australia’s first formal truth-telling process.
The Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum Wurrung woman said the commission is seeking survey responses for feedback to guide their investigations into past and ongoing injustices committed against Indigenous people.
“History is always written by the side of the oppressor, it’s time now to hear the story of the other side,” Ms Hunter said at a Melbourne Press Club event.
“We commit to ensuring those engaging with the commission know their words will be truly and deeply heard.”
The commission has proposed four priorities which include laying strong foundations for trust and cultural legitimacy, honouring Elders and preserving knowledge, building a comprehensive picture of systemic injustices against First Nations people and promoting a coherent and holistic reform agenda.
“We've taken these priorities to community and we are currently getting feedback to ensure we get them right,” Ms Hunter said.
Once refined, they will drive Yoo-rook's focus until its interim report is due in June 2022.
Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams said working towards a more just state means not just telling the truth, but hearing the truth as well.
“Victoria was established with the specific intent of excluding Aboriginal people and their laws, culture, customs and traditions," she said.
"It was built on the back of massacres, forced assimilation, the dispossession of land, dispersal of families and nations, and the removal of children.
“The truth is, the history of our state and nation is not as well understood as it needs to be… and this history and the systems it gave rise to continue to disproportionately harm Aboriginal people and this too is a part of our truth.”
“We need you to understand how those past injustices put us in a position today where we can’t self-determinate," she said.
The truth-telling process is expected to pave the way for a treaty.
“Through treaty, we can formalize a better and fairer relationship between the government and Aboriginal Victorians, and that would help us to reset and unwind the unfair policies and practices,” Ms Williams said.
When Yoo-rrook delivers its final report in 2024, they will hand down recommendations for reform to laws, policy and practices with the full powers of a Royal Commission.
“We're not just going to surprise people at the end with this document full of recommendations,” Ms Hunter said.
“We're going to bring people along on this journey, people are going to know there's not going to be many more surprises from our end, and we know it's going to be hard and difficult.”