• Victorian Parliament building. (Wilkipedia)Source: Wilkipedia
The Victorian government has introduced the country's first treaty laws into parliament, while the Greens launched their own campaign for Clan-based treaties.
Rachael Hocking

28 Mar 2018 - 9:01 AM  UPDATED 28 Mar 2018 - 2:31 PM

Elders and community members filled the Victorian Parliament public gallery to witness the second reading of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 on Wednesday.

On the floor, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins were joined by Traditional Owners, including Taungurung Elder and chair of the Treaty Working Group, Mick Harding, who sang to the legislation in language.

"Our Ancestors are why we're here... our children are why we're here," Mr Harding said.

The bill to be debated in the coming weeks outlines the establishment of an Aboriginal Representative Body, guiding principles for treaty negotiations and a self-determination fund to support equal participation in the treaty process.

The fund will be managed by a representative body, whose makeup will be decided as part of the next phase in the process overseen by the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Ms Gallagher called treaties 'unfinished business'. 

"We have been the keeper of these lands and waters since time began," she said.

"Treaties are an opportunity to recast the relationship between Aboriginal Victorians, non-Aboriginal Victorians and government... this bill is a monumental step in righting the wrongs of the past."

'Disappointed' and 'sidelined': the Greens launch Clan-based treaty campaign

The Greens and some members of the Victorian community remain unhappy with the government's treaty process, which they say has sidelined Elders and Clans.

Member for Northcote and Gunai Gunditjmara woman Lidia Thorpe used the day to launch a separate treaty campaign which aims to ensure the treaty process embarked upon by this government is 'done right', including the process for electing members to the Aboriginal Representative Body.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly, Ms Thorpe acknowledged her Clan Elders who she said felt 'the pain of being left out of this process from the beginning' and noted the absence of members of the Wurundjeri Clan in the Parliament.

"To date, all of their Clan Elders have not participated in this process," she said. 

Ms Thorpe is calling for the establishment of an Elders' Council, and for a Clan Elders Council Treaty Gathering to be held in coming months.  

"Treaties must be with the sovereign peoples of the land - the Clans," said Gary Murray, an Aboriginal Elder with the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group.

"The Victorian government must consult with and negotiate with the elders, who are the law in our culture."

With AAP