The Barunga Festival has today hosted an historic signing of an agreement to work towards treaty in the Northern Territory.
The Barunga agreement is an unprecedented memorandum of understanding between the NT government and all four of the Territory's land councils. It is the result of a week of meetings at Barunga involving 200 members of the land councils.
"How a treaty will work will be up to you, will be up to Aboriginal Territorians," Chief Minister Michael Gunner told the crowd ahead of the signing.
The Barunga Festival is an annual event of sport, dance, song and music, and 30 years ago the Barunga Statement was presented by Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Wenten Rubuntja to then prime minister Bob Hawke.
The Barunga Statement, written on bark, called for self-determination, land rights, compensation and Indigenous rights. Bob Hawke responded saying he would push for a treaty by 1990.
When that pledge came to nothing, Yothu Yindi was moved to write their signature song 'Treaty'.
According to the Guardian, the agreement commits the NT government and the land councils to a three-year consultation process on how best to approach treaty negotiations.
It comes one day after the Victorian lower house passed legislation to pursue a treaty in the state.
As is the case in Victoria, the Barunga agreement sets out for an independent treaty commissioner to develop the process.
In a statement, Northern Land Council Chairman Samuel Bush-Blanansi said: “This is a momentous day in the history of the Territory, a chance to reset the relationship between the Territory’s First Nations and the Government."
But Tiwi Land Council Chairman Gibson Farmer Illortaminni expressed some reservations.
“We’ve got to be careful and understand each other about what we want, because we don’t want to have the same problems we’ve had in the past," Mr Illortaminni said in the statement.
"The MoU is a good start, but we’ve got a long way to go. The Government needs to be honest and transparent.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten attended the signing and reiterated Labor's commitment for an Indigenous voice to parliament.
"The process of truth-telling and agreement-making and treaties is not beyond the capacity of Australians to embrace," he told the crowd.