History was made as the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 was passed through the Lower House of Victorian Parliament early on Thursday evening.
"We're feeling absolutely elated that we got it through the first stage of the Parliament of having our Advancing Treaty Bill with Aboriginal Victorians through," Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins told NITV.
"It has been a very big achievement for the Aboriginal community here in Victoria to be able to get a piece of Legislation through the Parliament that says we recognise you, we want to hear from you, and we want you at the table to negotiate Treaty."
There were a number of amendments made to the bill, including the establishment of an Elders Council, the specification of 'Traditional Owners', and that the appointed Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner must be an Aboriginal Victorian.
Labor also yesterday announced that $700,000 would go towards supporting Aboriginal Elders and Traditional Owners to engage further with the treaty process.
Greens Member for Northcote, Lidia Thorpe's request to amend the bill to include recognising the sovereignty of clans was rejected during the debate.
"It is disappointing that we're still negotiating, and still fighting for this Government to acknowledge Aboriginal people's sovereignty," she said.
Ms Thorpe expressed her frustration, tweeting live from the Legislative Assembly.
But Ms Thorpe has said her fight for the recognition of sovereignty isn't over. She said earlier in the day that the Greens would fight the issue in the Upper House.
"To have a Treaty, and Treaty, is between two sovereigns," she said.
"Now for the Government not to acknowledge Aboriginal people's sovereignty is not a great start so we will continue to fight for acknowledgement of sovereignty in the Lower House, and if we can't get that through today, then we will continue to fight that in the Upper House."
The Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018 is expected to continue to the Legislative Assembly in approximately 6 weeks.
The road to Australia's first treaties
It's been two years since Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister Natalie Hutchins announced the state government would be engaging in consultations with the community to establish a treaty, after a gathering of 500 leaders from across the state unanimously opposed constitutional recognition.
Since then, treaties have been flagged in the Northern Territory, as well as by the opposition in New South Wales. They have also temporarily stalled in South Australia under the new Liberal government.
Ms Thorpe has maintained opposition to the Victorian treaty process since the end of 2016, when she left the Interim Working Group in charge of consultations claiming she felt her cultural integrity was being compromised.
In the year and a half since then, state and regional consultations have taken place. Gunditjmara woman Jill Gallagher was appointed Treaty Commissioner and legislation was introduced into the state parliament.
“It feels – I can only describe it as awesome," Ms Gallagher told The Point.
"There’s a lot of excitement down here. We’ve waited a long time. And the step today, being supported in the Lower House, is just one step closer for us as Aboriginal people in Victoria for treaties.”
She said her role as the Treaty Advancement Commissioner is to design and develop an elected Aboriginal representative body.
"The representative body, once it’s up and running, it will develop a state-wide framework in partnership with government and that will set the scene for treaties negotiations," Ms Gallagher said.