Another step towards reconciliation

Another step towards reconciliation

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

As we celebrate NAIDOC Week 2018, it’s timely to discuss how the recent passing of Treaty legislation in the Victorian lower house is bringing Victoria one step closer to signing a Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Legal Aid Brief asked Associate Director of Aboriginal Services Meena Singh about the significance of this event, and how a Treaty can facilitate reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Aboriginal Victorians.

Above: Associate Director, Aboriginal Services, Meena Singh
Above: Associate Director, Aboriginal Services, Meena Singh

What does the Treaty legislation mean to you and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community?

The legislation passing will mean so many different things to different people in the Aboriginal community.

For me, it represents a culmination of a lot of drive and determination, but also vision, from some people in the Aboriginal community over a very long time.

It’s a huge commitment to achieve equality and formal recognition of our sovereignty and I think we’re living in a very momentous period of our history.

Treaty will address some things, not everything, but the process, as much as the outcome, is very important.

How does the Treaty legislation contribute to reconciliation?

I think it opens up greater dialogue between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians, and hopefully, more broadly in Australia.

Other states and territories are starting their own Treaty journeys, which really, should have started when non-Aboriginal people first came to Australia.

However, because of a fundamental failure to recognise our humanity, equality and sovereignty, that process never took place.

A Treaty is an opportunity to properly recognise the hundreds of nations across Victoria, each with their own traditions, laws, cultures and boundaries that were respected for some 60,000 centuries.

The Treaty process actually moves us beyond reconciliation into a new era of relationships between First Nations people and all others.

How can we encourage further reconciliation?

Firstly, it is important to recognise that so many issues impacting Aboriginal people today are interlinked and stem from past policies and legislation.

And secondly, being an ally to First Nations people means ensuring their voice is heard before yours.

For so long, Aboriginal people have been talked about or talked over.

The Treaty process is bringing Aboriginal people into a conversation and a legal process, in a way that hasn’t been done previously.

There will be steps forward and backward, and not everyone will agree all of the time on how things should proceed.

However, there needs to be room to respect the diversity of opinions amongst the community, and the process of Treaty making will bring all of this out.

More information

For more information about NAIDOC week events in your local area, see NAIDOC week events.

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