I am honoured to be the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria – a state that is leading the nation in treaty. This is something all Victorians can be proud of, but there is a lot of work to do.
In 2018, Victoria passed the first piece of treaty-related legislation in Australia’s history. Since then, there have been significant steps to advance the treaty process, including the establishment of the Assembly and the announcement of a formal truth and justice process to recognise historic wrongs and ongoing injustices against Aboriginal Victorians.
A treaty is the first step in common understanding and walking forward together. Our path to treaty is about realising our collective ambitions for a shared future to which all can aspire.
I want to acknowledge the work of the Assembly, the first democratically elected body of Aboriginal Victorians in the state’s history, which is working in partnership with the Victorian Government to establish the elements required to support future treaty negotiations.
I would like to thank the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings, for his unwavering dedication to providing better outcomes for the Aboriginal community and progressing treaty in Victoria. His commitment to working towards a future where Aboriginal people are healthy, safe and thriving is inspirational. I would also like to thank the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and former Parliamentary Secretary for Treaty, the Hon. Natalie Hutchins, whose support and commitment to delivering treaty has been exceptional.
As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I am committed to acknowledging the past wrongs committed against Aboriginal communities and how they have shaped Victoria. At a time when the world is calling for change, we need to recognise that racism and injustice has no place here.
In July 2020, the Assembly and the Victorian Government announced a truth and justice process to formally recognise historic wrongs, and past and ongoing injustices, against Aboriginal Victorians. This process will be the first of its kind anywhere in Australia and represents a significant step forward on Victoria’s path towards treaty.
Reckoning with past injustices is unlikely to be easy, but it has the potential to be a healing and unifying process for Aboriginal Victorians and to reset the story and foundations of our state. Victoria is now the first and only jurisdiction to have actioned the ‘treaty’ and ‘truth’ elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Our commitment to formal truth-telling builds both on our state’s nation-leading work on treaty and on Victoria’s redress scheme for Stolen Generations members, which was announced in March 2020.
We as a government have a vital role to play in building and sustaining new relationships. An effective treaty process requires a fundamental reshaping of the relationship between the State and Aboriginal Victorians, to which we are wholly committed. In partnering with the Assembly in the next phase of the treaty process, we must respect the Assembly’s voice as the representative of Aboriginal Victorians and operate in good faith to build and sustain momentum towards treaty.
The dispossession of Aboriginal Victorians as a result of colonisation has had lasting, intergenerational impacts which continue to be felt today. Against this history, building and strengthening the Aboriginal community’s trust in government is paramount. We as a government are determined to do our part to right these wrongs, as shown through our genuine commitment to self-determination and being a fair and model treaty partner.
Negotiating treaty or treaties will take time, but as a government we have a responsibility and we are determined and committed to achieving this. It is vital that we develop a stronger understanding of the issues facing Aboriginal Victorians.
I’m looking forward to continuing on this journey with all Victorians to deliver the nation’s first treaty.
As Victorians we all have a part to play in reconciliation and we understand that treaty is a historic step forward in the right direction. Our progress towards treaty is unprecedented in Australia and is an outstanding achievement – one that we should all be proud of. Through this process, we must keep listening to, and being led by, Aboriginal people and communities. This is the time for all Victorians to come together to ensure a more equitable and just future for generations to come.
Gabrielle Williams MP
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Minister for Prevention of Family Violence
Minister for Women
Reviewed 05 October 2020