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Victoria's peak Indigenous health body backs appointments of state's Treaty Authority

Jarred Cross -

Victoria's peak Indigenous health body says the state's newly-appointed inaugural Treaty Authority highlights a "staunch" commitment to steps forward.

Earlier this week, Dr Petah Atkinson, Thelma Austin, Jidah Clark, Andrew Jackomos and Duean White were announced as members of authority - effectively an independent umpire to Treaty Negotiations in Victoria with guaranteed funding.

At a Closing the Gap joint council event in Melbourne last month, Victorian Minister for Treaty and First Peoples, Natalie Hutchins, said the Authority, among standing initiatives, put the pieces in place to negotiating a statewide Treaty before the end of the current government's term.

On Thursday, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation "warmly" congratulated the five members and government for putting the framework in place for "historic" work.

"With bipartisan support, the Treaty Authority is the first body of its kind in Australia and will play a critical role in Victoria's nation-leading journey towards a statewide treaty," VACCHO said in a statement.

"Treaty presents a vital opportunity to recognise historic wrongs, address ongoing injustices, help heal wounds of the past, promoting the fundamental human rights of Aboriginal peoples and a chance for all Victorians to create a better future together as equals."

Victoria leads other jurisdictions in formalising Treaty processes, making the latest move amongst recent backtracks in New South Wales and Queensland following October's landslide referendum defeat.

VACCHO chief operating officer Jim O'Shea described the Authority appointment as a "landmark" moment.

"This is a landmark moment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. The Treaty Authority will play a vital role in helping promote self-determination, empowerment, and influence systematic change," Mr O'Shea said.

"Not only are these appointments bringing their own skillsets to the role – they are also bringing over 65,000 years of rich Aboriginal culture and knowledge.

"I look forward to seeing this staunch group of leaders carry out important work to further advance the journey to Treaty.

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