Address to Aboriginal community members
I would like to start by paying my respects to the traditional owners of the land that we are gathered on today and to all elders here today as well.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond briefly to the statements made by the Aboriginal elders here on the floor of the Parliament.
I am very glad to be a member of this Parliament today and to have the opportunity to hear our highly respected elders from communities across Victoria speak about what a Victorian treaty means to them.
Criticism is often levelled at governments and politicians for not listening to the people they represent. Here we have senior members of Aboriginal communities telling us directly how important this treaty is to them. They will be able to lead the discussions that inevitably must follow, and they will be complex and no doubt very difficult to navigate. It is the elders of our Aboriginal communities who are the leaders, the ones who will be able to shepherd their communities into a new era of recognition and acknowledgement of the past, at the same time providing a vision for the future for their people.
A special event was held here at Parliament in Queen’s Hall just three weeks ago to acknowledge the historic milestone towards a Victorian treaty. The event was hosted by Victorian treaty advancement commissioner Jill Gallagher, who is here with us again today. The Aboriginal treaty working group, a broadly representative organisation, has consulted widely with Aboriginal communities and has made a number of recommendations. There is clearly much work to be done by the commissioner in the years ahead to achieve the desired outcomes. This Parliament has previously shown a bipartisan approach to working towards these goals.
While Australia is one of the few commonwealth countries that does not have a treaty with its Indigenous people, Victoria is preparing the ground with the work that is currently being undertaken. So I extend my congratulations today to all of those who have worked so hard to get to this point. To the Aboriginal elders of my Murray-Goulburn region who are here today, Geraldine Atkinson and Paul Briggs, I think this must be a very proud moment for you. It is for our communities, and I extend my best wishes to you on the journey you have ahead.