The Victorian Government will enter talks to draft Australia's first Treaty with Aboriginal people

The Transcript

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: The Victorian State Government hopes that within a matter of weeks it'll be in talks to draft Australia's first treaty with Aboriginal people.

Details of the plans are still unclear, but the Andrews Government says it's shameful that in 2016 no state or Commonwealth has a treaty with Indigenous Australians.

Victoria's first nations recently rejected constitutional recognition in favour of self-determination and a treaty.

Hamish Fitzsimmons has this Lateline exclusive report.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS, REPORTER: At the start of the month, Victoria's First People attended a forum to discuss the Commonwealth's constitutional recognition proposal.

RICHARD FRANKLAND, GUNDITJMARA: The Government's put this together, but it needs to be owned by us. And someone said yesterday that self-determination is about asserting our ownership. And maybe that's what today could be about.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Constitutional recognition was rejected in favour of a treaty.

ADAM FROGLEY, TAUNGERONG/WOI-WURRUNG: Constitutional recognition is simply warm and fuzzies for white fellas, to be quite honest. It makes the white fellas feel good.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: These elders pushed for a treaty over recognition and have formed a working party to establish its terms.

DJA DJA WARUNG ELDER: What has come out of the meeting was that if any frameworks are gonna be done, it's gonna be black-led. It has to be, right?

GARY MURRAY, DJA DJA WARUNG ELDER: Recognition's a distraction, but you can park it in a treaty process. Of course we want to get rid of racist constitutions and racist laws, so what we do, we park it a treaty process and there's a chapter in the treaty just on that sort of aspect. And it shouldn't be the main game. The main game is sovereign treaty and reparations for all the injustices.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The State Government say it will begin treaty talks at the end of February.

NATALIE HUTCHINS, VICTORIAN ABORIGINAL AFFAIRS MINISTER: At the end of the day, it's pretty disappointing that we're in the year 2016 and we as a Commonwealth country don't have a treaty or a national arrangement with our First Peoples. And in fact Canada have been doing it for a long time, New Zealand have successfully done it, and it's time for Australia to step up. We'd heard loud and clear before the last state election that this is something that was really high on the agenda for Aboriginal Victoria and it was something we committed to in the lead-up to the election, and that is to look at options for treaty and recommendations to the Federal Government to take on options.
HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: In 1835, Melbourne founder John Batman claimed Wurundjeri elders signed these deeds which agreed to exchange the land from Geelong to Melbourne for European goods. The New South Wales Governor Richard Bourke almost immediately overturned it.

Elders hope a new treaty will be more enduring.

BOBBY NICHOLLS, YORTA YORTA ELDER: We as Victorians have been very politically active in terms of whether it be land rights or even in Native Title, we've sort of been - sorta, I suppose, the leaders in that. But I go back to the question that Gary raised was: who's going to lead this? This is the big question.