Wednesday, 22 June 2022


Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022



Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022

Second reading

Debate resumed.

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) (18:03:463:): As we heard today from our co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly this morning, from Aunty Geraldine and Marcus Stewart, it is important when it comes to things like treaty to be on the right side of history, and particularly if you look at the history of the past, if you look at the wrongs of the past, we need to do whatever we can to right those wrongs.

There have been lots of opportunities for me to be involved with our Indigenous community over many years, and I want to pay tribute to them today, and also, particularly in the conversations that were had in our Parliament, accept the fact that whilst this is such an important signal and important initiative that the Parliament is doing, there is a lot more work that needs to be done. What we do need to do is take the important framework of the treaty and look at what actions we can do to ensure that the conversations become the actions that are needed.

One of the important elements that was mentioned today was the fact that governments over many, many years have failed. They have failed in providing a whole lot of programs that have not really hit the mark, to be quite frank. We see issues around incarceration, around poverty and around drug and alcohol abuse. Although we look at Closing the Gap reporting to try and look at those signals and what we can do to improve them, and we are monitoring them, there is still so much work to be done. That is why the conversations that were had today were about saying, ‘Hey, if we keep going down the same path that we’ve had of government just providing, effectively, these welfare programs, we’re not going to get the outcomes that we need’.

I want to pay tribute to Noel Pearson, because Noel Pearson has been very, very strong on this stuff. I have had the great opportunity of having many conversations with Noel Pearson. He is all about, effectively, self-determination. Noel Pearson is about taking your own responsibility. He talks a lot about the Indigenous welfare of the past, and he says very strongly that if we are going to fix this, we need to change direction completely. He has criticised approaches which he terms as being progressive and is supporting and focusing more on a centralist approach, which is about looking at what Indigenous communities can do in terms of being able to take the baton and self-determine in a number of these different areas. He talks strongly about changing direction when it comes to welfare, substance abuse, child protection, education and economic development and, as I say, has criticised a lot of the approaches of the past.

I was involved in a program called First Australians Business with Noel Pearson, and it was about helping Indigenous business owners to grow and develop their businesses. Luke Cummins from Cape York was an Aboriginal artist who I mentored for a member of years, and I had the opportunity of working with his family, working with his brother John and meeting at the time—and this was back in 2003 I recall—his daughter Jamiga. In fact we did an exhibition at the Malthouse and we engaged Victoria University, which supported this exhibition, and the funds went to Luke to be able to help educate others in terms of his stories.

Luke took me up to Cape York, and I had the experience of going to visit some of the rock caves and look at his original artwork in these rock caves. It is a memory of a lifetime for me. What really hit the mark for me was what his brother said to me a long time later. He was saying that for many years both Luke and John were painting stories of the land from a different clan to the one which they were in, because they were moved in as part of the stolen generation to another area and had not known where their original land was or which clan they belonged to and therefore were effectively telling the wrong stories, not the stories that they should have been telling. This is part of that conversation of understanding where you come from, who you belong to and who you are part of. The idea of treaty allowing those from different clans and different groups to be able to have that conversation, have that dialogue and work things out themselves, being able to work this through without having government and without having bureaucrats, is very, very important in terms of them being able to create their own destiny and their own path. I think that is really, really important going forward.

I wanted to finish just by highlighting some of the particular connections to William Cooper because William Cooper standing up for justice, I think, has perfect synergy. What he did was march to deliver a letter to the German consulate at the time of the Second World War. After Kristallnacht, the night of the broken glass, he saw the wrongs of what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, and he delivered a letter. The letter read:

On behalf of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, we wish to have it registered and on record that we protest wholeheartedly at the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government in Germany.

We plead that you would make it known to your government and its military leaders that this cruel persecution of their fellow citizens must be brought to an end.

What makes this story so important is that William Cooper in his 70s marched from Footscray to deliver this letter with a number of others. At the same time that he did this, his own citizens were not recognised as citizens themselves. He effectively was not recognised for who he was and was not even able to be a citizen of this country. He did not have any of the rights that we have, yet he was standing up for the rights of others. We have progressed a lot since then, but what William Cooper did in standing up for others, the memorial and the changes and the advocacy that he did, is a truly remarkable story. This is a very important piece going forward. I think what we are doing today in terms of the opposition supporting this says that this is not about politics. It is about change, it is about working together for better outcomes, and that is why the Liberal-Nationals are supporting this treaty bill today.

Ms HALFPENNY (Thomastown) (18:11): I rise to make a contribution on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we stand today in the white man’s Parliament built on the land of the Wurundjeri people, a land that extends to the electorate of Thomastown. I pay my respects to Wurundjeri elders past, present and emerging, as well as elders from other places, and to all First Nations people. I also acknowledge the devastation that colonisation has caused Aboriginal people from the start and that it continues to this very day.

As a non-Aboriginal woman, I know I cannot speak for or really know what Aboriginal people know or how the journey of treaty should travel. It is the work of Aboriginal people, and they should and must decide. The Victorian Labor government and every member of it want to walk with Aboriginal people on this journey and be guided by them. Colonisation is not a memory from the past. It is not over; it did not end. It has been a part of life for Aboriginal people through every generation, for every part of every family and every individual. The co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, who addressed us earlier today, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, a Bangerang and Wiradjuri woman, said in this chamber that the policies and actions of colonisation, of institutions and of governments attempted to eradicate Aboriginal people and Aboriginal culture. But as we can very clearly see today, this has not happened, and it is because of the strength and courage of First Nations people. Through this process I hope to learn more of Aboriginal culture, and I hope that I can earn the right to call Aunty Geraldine Atkinson ‘Aunty Geri’, as she referred to in her speech this morning.

First Peoples for generations have called for treaty to secure structural change to improve the lives of First Peoples and ensure that they have the freedom and power to make the decisions that affect them, their communities and country. The legislation we are debating or talking on today does some of that, because the way to true equality is to have this work led by First Peoples in a genuine partnership with the Victorian government, and that is what this bill facilitates in this work. In 2016 the Victorian Labor government made a commitment to First Nations people that we would undergo a treaty process, and this bill is an important step in that process. I would like to just comment on some of the elements of the bill before then going on to talk a little bit more about the First Peoples’ Assembly and the mighty job they are doing and the representatives of Aboriginal people who are on that assembly.

Following talks and consultation with Aboriginal people in 2016, our government committed to advancing treaty with Victoria’s First Peoples as a necessary step in realising Aboriginal self-determination. This commitment was formalised in Parliament with the passage of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018, the first treaty legislation in Australian history. That act sets out a plan or the elements and principles—

The SPEAKER: Order! I will just interrupt the member at this point. The time has arrived for the joint sitting to choose a person to hold the seat in the Legislative Council rendered vacant by the resignation of Mr David Limbrick. I will now ask the Clerk to ring the bells to call members to the joint sitting. The Assembly will resume after the joint sitting has concluded, and the bells will ring again at that time.

Sitting suspended 6.15 pm until 6.23 pm.

Ms HALFPENNY: As I was saying, the act committed the state to working in partnership with Aboriginal representative bodies to establish elements necessary to support future treaty negotiations, and since it was established in 2019 the First Peoples’ Assembly has been working with government in partnership. The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, as the Aboriginal representative body, is the democratically elected representative body for traditional owners and Aboriginal Victorians, and today we take another step together in this historic journey towards treaty and realising genuine self-determination of Aboriginal people.

The bill will establish the Treaty Authority as its own entity under the Treaty Authority Agreement, including the infrastructure it needs to operate, and there will be a self-determination fund and guidelines to facilitate priorities and to facilitate negotiation and dispute resolution. This will be a separate entity in order to do its work, and it will be separate and independent from government so that it is a true style of self-determination where Aboriginal people, First Nations, will be able to determine how they go about formulating and facilitating the treaty process. I would like to quote the words of Marcus Stewart, Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung nation, who is an assembly co-chair and also spoke on the floor of the Parliament today. As he said:

This is about stepping outside the colonial system … We’ve said to government, if you’re serious about treaty, you’ll do it our way, and to their credit, that’s what they’re doing. This is decolonisation in action.

The government is relinquishing some of its control and power … together we are creating new institutions that will be guided by Aboriginal lore, law and cultural authority that has been practised on these lands for countless generations.

Treaty is an opportunity to come to terms with our past and to work together for a better collective future, a future that is fair and just and makes real change. I see some of the Aboriginal organisations that are working in the Thomastown electorate: the First Peoples’ Health and Wellbeing centre and the Bubup Wilam Aboriginal kindergarten. They work so, so hard for their people, with such care, with such professionalism and with such incredible outcomes for the people that they are caring for and working with. But I also see their frustration in sometimes having to work in a system that is not designed for First Nations people by First Nations people. There is that frustration, but perhaps better work and better facilitation of what they are doing will improve the outcomes that they are getting. That is something that I think all of us hope will come out of this treaty and the work we do together, ensuring that there is a much more just and fair future for all of us. Because as one First Nations woman from the Bubup Wilam kindergarten said, ‘If we don’t work it out for Aboriginal people, then we really cannot work things out as a society for anyone in terms of fairness and equality’. It is a great honour to be part of a government that is being led by and following Aboriginal people towards a treaty that will allow for proper self-determination and a better future for all of us.

Just in finishing, I would like to quote again from a First Nations elder, one who I know, Uncle Andrew Gardiner, who I have met on many occasions through all the great work that he does within the Thomastown area. He said, in a talk about what he sees as the purpose of treaty:

The Treaty Authority Agreement is another historic marker along the process of our people in negotiating their Treaties with the State Government and another step closer for the Assembly in achieving that goal.

Ms RICHARDS (Cranbourne) (18:28): I am incredibly honoured to be able to rise to speak on the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022. I also would like to begin my contribution by acknowledging the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people as the traditional owners of the land that the Parliament is built on. I want to acknowledge that in representing the Cranbourne district I am working for and serve the people of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri people. I would also like to acknowledge the First Nations people who have been with us in the gallery today and thank them for their attendance and generosity in welcoming us to their country. I acknowledge the land in Cranbourne was and always will be the land of our First Nations people.

The bill before us will support the establishment of a Treaty Authority, overseeing treaty negotiations between the state and Victoria’s First Peoples. It will be an independent body, the first of its kind that oversees treaty negotiations. It will facilitate the relationship between the First Peoples and the state and between First Peoples groups. Today, I would argue, we have seen the best of us, and we have seen the best of us in the contributions that we have heard. We have seen the best of us in the decision by those opposite to elevate treaty and have it above politics. The Treaty Authority that is the subject of the bill will facilitate and oversee treaty negotiations and administer the treaty negotiation framework, provide for resolution of disputes in treaty negotiations in accordance with a treaty negotiation framework and carry out research to support treaty negotiations and the administration of the treaty negotiation network. This is a novel and unprecedented legal model in Australia, and while it is based on international best practice, it is important to acknowledge that this is a nation-leading and historic change in how the state and First Nations people approach treaty negotiations. This is the first time I have quoted Martin Luther King, who reminded us that the arc of the moral universe is long and that it bends towards justice. Change takes a long time, but we acknowledge absolutely that justice for First Nations people has taken too long—way too long.

This morning was extraordinary. I am going to try from now on to limit my voice in this contribution to the voices of others because for too long we have needed to be taken on a journey of understanding of self-determination. But before I do hand over my voice to the contributions of others from our First Nations I do want to thank people who have helped me and taken me on the journey of understanding, of not speaking for people but allowing and giving the space we need for people to take us and have the voice that we ought listen to.

So 20 years ago or thereabouts—I have lost track of time a bit—I first met Uncle Shane Charles, a strong Yorta Yorta, Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung man, and he taught me about the power of governance. At about the same time I got to know Trevor Pearce because our kids did Little Athletics together, and this incredibly proud Kamilario man taught me about listening and about health. But the person I particularly acknowledge today, the person we all listen to I think for being the fierce leader that she is, is Aunty Jill Gallagher. In trying to express the purpose and significance of a bill such as this one in front of us today I would like to reflect on the words of Aunty Jill Gallagher and say how grateful I am for the generosity that I have been shown over many years by the commissioner of the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission. I do not think we would be here today without the drive of Aunty Jill.

Today when I caught up briefly with Aunty Jill and talked to her about the extraordinary young people in Cranbourne, I can tell you that her eyes sparkled, and there was nothing quite like that sparkle to acknowledge what it is that is the best of us and why we are so lucky to have such clever people as I have and I serve in Cranbourne—and I will make sure that I allow enough time to have their voices recorded here and their views on this treaty bill.

But it was while working for the member for Altona in her capacity as the Minister for Health that I was fortunate to be taken on the journey of understanding about what is so obvious that it hardly needs saying: Aboriginal people know best what Victorian Aboriginal people need. And so it was working alongside our traditional owners on Koolin Balit, which means ‘healthy people’ in Boon Wurrung language, that we saw in stark relief the approach that self-determination achieves. And we saw that so clearly in these last two years, because when we look at the success of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in caring for First Nations people, we see that for keeping people safe and supporting our strong and resilient communities that community and that organisation had the answer—and of course they had the answer. Again, when Aunty Jill Gallagher speaks, we listen. In an interview with the Victorian Women’s Trust she spoke on Aboriginal communities’ needs for the ability to negotiate treaties and highlighted how it is not a new proposition but that the only difference has been that we have as a government decided to explore the options to have treaty. To hear from Jill that the difference here is a state government willing to even consider seriously the prospect of treaty is sobering. I would like to particularly thank, as others have before me, the two co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Marcus Stewart and Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, who implored us to not be on the wrong side of history. Thank you too for calling for Victoria to show Australia we are ready to right the wrongs of the past—and what wrongs there are.

Again, I am going to proceed by fulfilling my commitment to hand over the voice and acknowledge particularly those who have such importance to the Cranbourne community, the people I serve, and start with Robert Ogden, the reserved seat holder representing the Bunurong Land Council and a proud Bunurong man. I can read that when the assembly took over Parliament House in Melbourne for its first chamber in December 2019, Robert Ogden said he hoped that they were starting something that would honour the losses, sacrifices and struggles of ancestors.

I hope we can listen to the aspirations of First Peoples in Victoria and find solutions to issues that have plagued us, plagued our people, since colonisation …

he said.

We will have our differences, but we must at least try to work together for an outcome.

Mr Ogden said it is important to note the assembly and the treaty process will not erase the hurt and atrocities of the past, but it is a chance to build real outcomes for Aboriginal people.

I would like to make sure that I have the voice of Dr Carolyn Briggs AM and the member for the Metropolitan Region recorded here as a very important and proud Boon Wurrung woman and also acknowledge the decades of professional experience and expertise that is brought to this place and will be brought to this treaty process.

Almost a whole year getting used to technology and getting used to how you have to navigate. It’s a good tool for when people can’t be there. Everyone can still be at home and it brings us together …

she explained.

As she’s tended to do throughout her life, Dr Briggs wasn’t going to let that challenge stop the Assembly’s work from progressing.

‘This is part of being in the Assembly and, now that we’ve unpacked ourselves and can attend these conferences and network and reconnect back with a lot of family units around here, the work will go on.’

I want to acknowledge again the words that have been provided, which are:

My dream is for my legacy to be an Assembly building. It’ll be for theatre, it will be for international Indigenous Peoples around the world to come to …

I also want to thank and acknowledge Andrew Gardiner, who is representing the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, and again make sure that Uncle Andrew Gardiner’s words are recorded, that he wants nobody left behind:

At the end of the day, we’ve all worked through things to get a positive platform, but it’s our responsibility to get that moving and to communicate all these things to communities …

I have so much optimism for the future, and the optimism I have absolutely has to be centred around my experience with our local kids, an incredible mob that take me on the journey all the time. When we first learned about treaty I went to a couple of the schools, but I particularly acknowledge the extraordinary students of Cranbourne Secondary College. Making sure that we got the voices of our young people, I do want to say how proud I was to spend time with Robert Gittens and Lauren Gittens. They are Marrung students from Cranbourne. We wanted to ask a very young and very proud Yorta Yorta man—a young man I was very honoured to meet, Hayden Cooper—what this meant to him. He said that importantly in this place at this moment, treaty will be instrumental in young people’s understanding of their background, their sense of hope and their sense of identity. He said he is looking forward to young people being looked after culturally and the understanding of self that will come out of treaty. He finished his comments by expressing how treaty will be an opportunity for people who could not speak up before to speak and express new ideas.

I am so grateful to our young people. I am so grateful to the young people of Cranbourne but particularly those young people who are taking me on the journey. We are going to stop and listen. We are going to slow down, and we are going to make sure it is your voice and it is your treaty. I am so grateful as well for the tenacity of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Premier. I commend the bill to the house.

Mr EDBROOKE (Frankston) (18:38): I would like to start by paying my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Wurundjeri, Woi Wurrung and Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin nation and pay my respects to elders past and present and acknowledge that this land was never ceded. I am absolutely so proud to stand here today to support the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022. Can I also acknowledge the First Peoples’ Assembly co-chairs, Aunty Geri Atkinson and Marcus Stewart, and other members of the assembly. The assembly have made amazing headway towards achieving what is right and what is just, and I thank them for their unending patience.

We actually have a lot to be proud of in Australia. We are the home of the longest continuous culture in the world—60 000 years or more and over 2000 generations. We have only just started appreciating it. The last 200 years are part of a 60 000-year history book that is inches thick, but that 200 years is but the last line in that book. I, like many others, was only taught about that last line in that book, that line about white occupation in the 20 years of my own education. There was literally nothing about Indigenous culture except maybe what a didgeridoo was. Thankfully the curriculum these days is a bit better, and we can do better. We can always do better, and seeing traditional owners in schools is a way forward.

My generation had to educate ourselves on our history, our combined history, and learn from community and read books. It was not until I was an adult that I realised that we are the only commonwealth nation without a treaty. It was not until I was an adult that I actually understood terra nullius and the Eddie Mabo case and learned about our earliest so-called attempt at treaty by John Batman. This is a really local example, and we are talking about a treaty for the land on which we stand right now. When I drive down Batman Avenue it is a reminder every time, and I wonder about this road named in honour of John Batman. I ask myself how the First Nations people feel about that—how they feel about the concept of trust knowing that Batman was a major player in the Black War of the 1820s in Tasmania. The member for Kew can talk about it as though it was just a couple of farmers out there with guns, but for all intents and purposes it was government-sanctioned genocide of the Tasmanian Palawa people, and it was action in step with other British colonies. But, like slavery, it was going out of fashion to talk about it because the age of Enlightenment period had begun. It is really ridiculous, to my mind, to talk about something so important but just say a population decrease of nearly 84 per cent over 120 years from 770 000 people to near 117 000 people was not genocide, that it was not ethnic cleansing, because it absolutely was. Batman’s own diary reveals how he led a night massacre of a sleeping village and executed the injured and even kept a child. Today we would name that, we would call that out as genocide, we would call that out as ethnic cleansing. We would not honour that.

Later Batman found himself near Merri Creek, which is current-day Northcote, arranging a treaty for the land on which we stand based on that European idea of ownership and legal contracts, concepts totally foreign to the people on this land at the time, where land was not about possession but about belonging. Batman negotiated with elders who did not speak a common language and apparently had no idea or even comprehension of what Batman was doing because selling land was not actually a known concept. Historians now even argue over whether Batman forged the signatures on those documents, which makes more sense than men who had no written language signing documents. These deals were even seen as so corrupt at the time that the New South Wales government and the Crown refused to recognise that treaty.

It is documented accounts like this that make me wonder about the accuracy of and the education on our history. I have got to call it out. It makes me wonder—and I am a bit flabbergasted—about the education of anyone in this house who tells us that they will cross the floor because they do not support the bill before the house, this ‘illiberal and divisive tokenism’ that ‘will do nothing to close the gap’. I ask the naysayers: what part of history don’t you understand? Why are you making excuses? What don’t you get? This issue has been ongoing since 1788. This issue certainly was not confined to a few murderous settlers, as we have heard. It is far from an even playing field, and we need to even that. That is why we are here today.

Anyone who listened to our First Peoples’ Assembly representatives today put forward that they want treaty and disagrees with that, I ask: how are you any different to the colonisers 200 years ago who refused to acknowledge, refused to listen and refused to walk beside our First People? I want members to remember that there are people listening to us today in Parliament, the privileged few, who are generational survivors of a colonial past that undeniably and efficiently attempted to achieve two things—that is, killing them and their families and breeding their culture out of them.

Now, we are not the first community to have to deal with this, and it is not like our traditional owner community have not been continuously fighting over the years to retain their land and culture and get the best for their community. If you talk to them, if you listen to them, if you learn from them, you will be surprised and more so maybe, like me, you will be shocked. You can learn about the stories not just within our white man borders but from all over the nation, things like the Coranderrk rebellion; William Barak, who was the ngurungaeta of the Woi Wurrung; the legendary stories of Pemulwuy; things like William Cooper, the Yorta Yorta man; the members of the Australian Aborigines League; the 1967 referendum; the stolen generations; deaths in custody and systemic racism. I am a privileged white bloke, and I get it. I can read—I get it. So what more can our traditional owner community do to convince you or make you understand that it is not a big ask to vote for this bill? Is it a lack of education? Is it just plain bloody stupidity? Is it narcissism? Or is it a bit deeper? Is it racism that makes you not feel a moral or ethical obligation to vote for this bill?

On the statement of treaty and treaty not helping close the gap, well, we have been trying to close the gap for nearly 14 years, since 2008. Closing the Gap is not working, and in some instances that gap is actually widening. What we know factually is that long-term sustainable solutions that close the gap are only possible when First Peoples are in the drivers seat and making decisions about matters that impact their lives. Treaty is that all-important mechanism through which we will transfer decision-making power to Victoria’s First Nations people, and treaty will provide the foundation from which First Peoples can pursue their aspirations and design and deliver their own solutions to improving outcomes and actually close that gap.

Traditional voices have been traditionally silenced. That is an irrefutable fact. That is the foundation of evidence that our history needs to be based on. The true history of colonisation, our shared history, has been denied, covered up and erased. That is a fact. Colonial powers are very good at doing that across the nation, and they did it here. But today we are leading the nation and are closer than ever to addressing unfinished business in this state, and that is why I stand here very proudly. Right now in Victoria we are on the verge of making history, and today we support a treaty process which can recognise historic wrongs, recognise ongoing injustices and acknowledge and promote the fundamental right that First Nations people have to their self-determination.

Today and on this journey we have been told in no uncertain terms that this bill is the only way we can heal and that this bill is the only way we can all create a future of truth, justice, equality and respect. If you do not support this legislation, essentially you are refusing to support the will of First Nations Victorians. And they have been pretty patient. They have offered a hand in partnership today to us, and all they are asking us to do—it is pretty simple—is stand with traditional owners throughout the process of truth and walk with them on the pathway to treaty, which I can guarantee every single person on this side of the house does without exception. I commend the bill to the house.

Ms ADDISON (Wendouree) (18:48): I am honoured today to speak in support of the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022 and to be one of the very last speakers on this very historic day. I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Parliament is built, the Wurundjeri people, pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging and extend those respects to the Aboriginal people who are here with us today and those who were with us earlier.

I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land of the district of Wendouree, the electorate I have the honour to represent in this place, the Wadawurrung people, and pay my respects to their elders both past and present. I would also like to acknowledge the Ballarat Aboriginal community, many of whom were forcibly removed from country all over Victoria and interstate during the stolen generation decades and were brought to Ballarat. They chose to stay and make Ballarat their home and together have created the thriving Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative to benefit all Aboriginal people living in and around Ballarat.

I also want to recognise the integral involvement of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria in the ongoing treaty process as well as the work of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group in establishing the assembly as the democratically elected Aboriginal Representative Body. I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, her ministerial office and the department for the work they have done to bring this bill to the house as well as acknowledge the work of previous Labor ministers for Aboriginal affairs, the member for Sydenham and Gavin Jennings, as well as the Premier for his strong support for treaty and truth telling.

It was a special moment earlier today when the significant contribution of the former Victorian treaty advancement commissioner, Jill Gallagher AO, was acknowledged by the co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and by the whole Parliament by applause. Thank you for your strength and leadership, Jill. It is a privilege to be in the Parliament on such a significant day for our state and hear the co-chairs and be with the members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. Thank you to Aunty Geraldine Atkinson and to Marcus Stewart, who is still here—thank you for being here, Marcus—for your wise and powerful words about what needs to be done for self-determination and how we can move forward together. The bill before this house today represents advancing progress in the treaty process, with the state of Victoria continuing to work in partnership with traditional owners and Aboriginal Victorians.

As we know, the Victorian government agreed in 2016 to undertake a treaty process in partnership with Aboriginal Victorians. This historic commitment was followed by the 2018 passage of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018, referred to as the ‘treaty act’, which sets out three elements necessary for future treaty negotiations, these being the Treaty Authority, the treaty negotiation framework and the self-determination fund. The first element, the Treaty Authority, has just this month been established through an agreement between the state and the First Peoples’ Assembly, and it forms the focus of the bill before the house today. It is the first of its kind in this country. Based upon the innovative model proposed by the First Peoples’ Assembly, the Treaty Authority will fairly and effectively oversee treaty negotiations as well as administering the treaty negotiations framework, providing for dispute resolution and carrying out supporting research with respect for Aboriginal lore, law and cultural authority. The Treaty Authority crucially provides the treaty process with a truly independent umpire to facilitate negotiations and build positive partnerships. As such, its internal governance processes are prescribed by the Treaty Authority Agreement, not by the bill before the house today.

The Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022 instead seeks to recognise and facilitate the new established Treaty Authority. The bill confers upon the authority the various legal powers and capacities necessary to fulfil its role. Given its unique and novel legal form, the authority will be empowered to operate similarly to a body corporate, with the power to enter into agreements to acquire, hold and dispose of property and sue and be sued, as well as the ability to participate in the formation of a company, trust or other body and to be a member, hold shares and act as a trustee. The authority will have perpetual succession, and to ensure the legal force of its activities it will be empowered to function outside of Victoria. The bill will also protect the authority members and employees from personal liability. Ongoing secure and independent funding for the authority’s operation is provided for as well via appropriations from the Consolidated Fund. Together these provisions endow the recently established Treaty Authority with the powers and status necessary to operate independently and to fulfil its essential role in the treaty process.

The bill will also amend the 2018 treaty act to allow for the establishment of the treaty negotiation framework and the self-determination fund. Following the Treaty Authority, these are the remaining two elements required to support substantive treaty negotiations, and both are currently being negotiated between the state and the assembly. The amendments in question ensure that the Aboriginal representative body, the position fulfilled by the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, may enter into treaty negotiations. They also provide for greater flexibility for how the self-determination fund may be administered, allowing greater separation between political and administrative funds. The bill serves an important function with the advancing treaty process, which is currently in the second of three stages. The state and the First Peoples’ Assembly are working to establish the necessary elements to support treaty negotiations, including the Treaty Authority that we are discussing today. This stage is expected to conclude this year, with treaty negotiations themselves to begin in 2023.

The treaty process is nation-leading work, seeking to create a stronger and fairer Victoria. I am incredibly proud of the progress that has been made so far, and I am additionally proud to be here today as we take another step on the pathway towards treaty. The Andrews Labor government’s more than $218 million investment in Victoria’s treaty process forms part of almost $1.6 billion committed since 2014 for initiatives supporting Aboriginal Victorians. We have seen $58 million in funding for the Yoorrook Justice Commission, Australia’s first truth-telling process into systematic injustices experienced by Aboriginal people, both historical and ongoing. The commission’s hearings have begun, and its final report is expected in mid-2024. Through the treaty process and the Yoorrook Justice Commission, Victoria is the only Australian jurisdiction to have actioned both the treaty and truth components of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Within my electorate of Wendouree we are working to realise self-determination locally. The Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative was established by members of the Ballarat and district Aboriginal community in 1979 and is led by the extraordinary BADAC CEO, Karen Heap, and chief operating officer, Jon Kanoa, and an incredible workforce who deliver health, social, welfare and community development programs to local Aboriginal people. I would also like to acknowledge the culturally strong and grounded leadership of the BADAC board of directors, who are voted in annually by the members of the cooperative: chair Larry Kanoa, vice-chair Ian Petty, treasurer Marjorie Pickford and also Deb Callister, Peter Lovett and Pauline Scott.

BADAC is the Aboriginal community controlled organisation, ACCO, for the Ballarat and district area, covering four local government areas, including the City of Ballarat. I was proud to join with the Minister for Regional Development earlier this year to announce $2.6 million for the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative to develop a culturally safe independent living community for local Aboriginal elders. BADAC has played a crucial role in my community for more than 40 years, and its history has recently been captured in an online project supported by a local history grant from our government.

Recently I was honoured to attend the opening, with the Minister for Early Childhood and members of the local Aboriginal community, of the Yirram Burron centre in Sebastopol. ‘Yirram burron’ means ‘morning child’, and this new early learning centre is an Aboriginal-led and community-owned kindergarten with an emphasis on culture, education and community. Further, the Andrews Labor government has provided the Wathaurung Aboriginal Corporation $150 000 to upgrade its offices in Ballarat’s Mair Street through the Aboriginal community infrastructure program.

The Andrews Labor government supports improved outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. We are united in our support for reconciliation, self-determination and treaty. Today is a historic day for Victoria, and I could not be prouder to be here supporting the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Bill 2022. I commend the bill to the house.

Ms WARD (Eltham) (18:58): I also acknowledge the Wurundjeri, the traditional custodians of the land on which we gather here today and on which I live, and I pay my respects to elders past and present and those who are emerging. I also extend my acknowledgement to those traditional owners who were here today, and I say ngoon godgin for their generosity in inviting us to walk with them.

In 1835 an illegal squatter camp was established on the banks of the Yarra River. This brazen act would shape the history of Australia as much as would the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, because now that the continent was fully open to conquest, no more was settlement to be restricted to defined boundaries. Within 12 months the British government would allow settlers to go where they pleased. So begins James Boyce’s study 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia, which speaks to the settlement of Naarm—a settlement begun because in just over 30 years the demand for grazing land had exploded so much that Tasmania was not enough.

Sir John Batman headed to Naarm to make money. Boyce goes on to write that by the end of the 1840s squatters had seized nearly 20 million hectares of the most productive and best watered Aboriginal homelands. He quotes Richard Broome that it was one of the fastest land occupations in the history of empires. We know that John Batman was a syphilitic hustler, and hustle he did. It is incredible to think how quickly the colony grew. We stand in this place, which began to be built in 1856, 20 years after Batman began the process that would be the carving up of the Kulin nation for European settlers. In 20 years we had a parliament; that is how quickly this city and this state grew with Europeans. In 1836 we had John Wedge landing at Port Phillip with 2000 sheep and 12 head of cattle—and so it begins. Gellibrand in April 1836 describes an expedition he led coming across the River Plenty, which is the Plenty River, and he talks of heading east from the Plenty River, likely towards Diamond Creek.

The SPEAKER: Order! I might interrupt the member at that point. I am required under sessional orders to interrupt business now. The member may continue her speech when the matter is next before the house.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.