RecVic Position Statement
Reconciliation Victoria's Position Statement on Treaty and Constitutional Recognition
Reconciliation Victoria supports the calls of the Aboriginal community in Victoria for the long-overdue negotiation of a Treaty, and commends the Victorian Government for its commitment to enter into these discussions. We are excited by these developments.
A Treaty – an agreement between governments and Aboriginal people – will address the nature of Australia’s settlement and colonial history and the ongoing impacts these have had on Aboriginal people, and provide Aboriginal people self determination over their own lives and futures, as shown by evidence to be the key to creating wellbeing. We believe a Treaty has the potential to create the foundation for a brighter collective future in which all of us can share: a more courageous future that embraces and learns from the cultures of our First Peoples, that acknowledges our often painful shared history and connects all of us to the fifty thousand or more years of human history of this country.
We also believe that the Australian Constitution needs to be changed, as it currently includes racist clauses and at the same time omits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First Peoples. Our support for constitutional reform is conditional on the proposal of a model that is supported by the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have legitimate concerns and understandable skepticism about the constitutional reform agenda. These concerns must be better understood in the community conversation about constitutional change, so that they can be acknowledged and addressed in the development of a model for change.
The concerns stem from the legacy of brutal dispossession, illegal settlement, forced assimilation, failed policies and continuing injustices that still result in ongoing suffering and disadvantage among many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To date there has been limited opportunity for Aboriginal people across Victoria to discuss and share their perspectives to inform the proposal for change. We believe that the Referendum Council’s Indigenous Conventions and further community meetings convened by the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister later this year must provide a genuine opportunity for input. The recently appointed Co-Chair of the Referendum Council Pat Anderson has recently stated that nothing would be precluded from consideration as to what form constitutional recognition would take, or indeed if it should progress at all.
It is our understanding that both state-based Treaty discussions and the national constitutional reform agenda can be progressed alongside each other. Both will represent significant milestones in our country’s history, but they must be informed by the diverse voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples if they are to be achieved.
What is our role?
Reconciliation Victoria believe a Treaty has the potential to create the foundation for a brighter collective future in which all of us can share: a more courageous future that embraces and learns from the cultures of our First Peoples, that acknowledges our often painful shared history and connects all of us to the fifty thousand or more years of human history of this country.
We support the important conversations taking place between Victorian Aboriginal Traditinal Owners and the state government.
We have a history of engagement in this space following the release of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation's Final Recommendations we established an Agreements and Treaties Working Group, in partnership with ANTaR Victoria. In 2010 the Working Group presented a Discussion Paper ‘Pathways to Treaty: Restoring the Reconciliation Roadmaps Ten Years on from CAR’at a parallel session of the inaugural National Indigenous Policy and Dialogue Conference on the 18-19 November 2010 at UNSW.
RecVic understands that the essence of treaty, its meaning and contents, is primarily a matter for Aboriginal people to determine and then negotiate with various levels of government. Nevertheless RecVic is seeking ways to find ways to encourage conversations in the broader Victorian population about treaty making processes.