This is a transcript of a speech by the Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher AO at an event at Victorian Parliament on March 7, 2018.
I would like to acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nations who land on which we gather today.
I pay my respects to their elders past and present and other elders who may be with us today.
I want to acknowledge of members of community who have joined us.
I would like to thank Mick for his presentation and for his tireless leadership as Chair of the Working Group, and all members of the Working Group and Community Assembly.
I would like to thank Premier Daniel Andrews, Minister Natalie Hutchins for their leadership in this space
And I acknowledge other members of Parliament, of all camps, for joining us here today.
Colonisation was catastrophic for our people.
The introduction of disease, massacres, theft, forced relocation of our people and generations of Aboriginal children stolen from their families.
We all know this has had a great impact, an unquantifiable devastating impact for our people.
We have survived what could only be described as crimes against humanity.
But despite all this….we remain a strong and proud people, our communities continue to grow and make great strides.
However there remains unfinished business. Aboriginal Victorians have never ceded sovereignty and have long called for treaty with government.
This call is not new and our demands have never wavered.
What is new, is that government has heeded this call, we are further on the path to treaty than ever before.
This is an incredible opportunity for us and we need to be sure we take full advantage of this opportunity.
The Commission provides an important degree of separation from government.
This strengthens the independence of the Victorian Aboriginal community on the path to treaties.
My primary role is to establish the Aboriginal Representative Body and maintain the momentum of the treaty process.
The backbone of my work will be this report of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group which incorporates the recommendations of the Aboriginal Community Assembly.
I would like to extend my thanks to the Working Group and all participants of the Aboriginal Community Assembly.
The Community Assembly was another example of the strength of our community when we come together.
This report reflects the hard work of all, our community, leaders and state government.
As Mick has said, ‘many hands have touched this work’.
It is a process that was definitely challenging, and while we will never all agree, I believe we have a strong basis to build a Representative Body.
The Representative Body will be a democratic voice for our people in the treaty process, independent of government.
My role will be to deliver this body, building governance structures and constructing the election process.
It is critical to me that this body is appropriate to our ways of doing business, it must be inclusive and it must be culturally safe.
My top priority at the end of my time as Commissioner is to ensure I leave community with a robust and powerful voice.
One of my first jobs as Commissioner will be getting on the road to meet with community across the state.
We will be starting road trips in the coming months.
I hope to meet with as many Aboriginal Victorians as we can.
This includes traditional owners, community organisations and other members of our community who live in Victoria.
It is important to me that community stays at the heart of this journey to treaties.
Australia is one of the only Commonwealth countries that does not have a treaty.
Treaty can ensure recognition of historic wrongs and the promotion of fundamental human rights.
Treaty is an opportunity to recast the relationship between Aboriginal Victorians and non-Aboriginal Victorians.
What is in a treaty is up to community.
On my road trips I will be talking with community about their aspirations for treaty or treaties.
My role is not to negotiate treaty but will provide this information to the Aboriginal Representative Body.
This will allowing our elected representatives to be in the best position to commence their work with government on the Treaty Negotiation Framework.
Today we are further than we ever have been on the path to treaty.
This is an incredibly exciting time for me and all members of our community.
I look forward to speaking with many of you today and in the coming months.
Mick thank you for this message stick. This carries with it the integrity, responsibility and strength of the treaty process.
I am honoured to be its custodian for this stage of the treaty journey.
Thank you to Minister Natalie Hutchins, Mick, Tiriki and all who have joined us today.
And thank you to all members of the Working Group, Community Assembly and community for being part of this journey.