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Treaty talks to centre on power shift

Callum Goode -

Historic Victorian treaty talks are set to centre on the state government ceding relevant decision-making powers to Aboriginal people.

The First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria, the democratically elected group tasked with negotiating a statewide treaty, has signalled the demand ahead of talks with the government beginning later in 2024.

"We're still in the process of gathering ideas and feedback from our communities," assembly co-chair and Gunditjmara man Rueben Berg said in a statement on Wednesday.

"But the priorities we'll take into the first round of talks are firming up and are very likely to focus on transferring relevant decision-making powers from government to First Peoples."

Australia's first Indigenous truth-telling body, the Yoorrook Justice Commission, in 2023 called for Victoria to set up standalone Indigenous justice and child protection systems.

It was among 15 recommendations still under consideration with the state government's long-awaited response to an interim report widely slammed by Aboriginal and legal groups earlier in April.

Mr Berg and fellow assembly co-chair Ngarra Murray are slated to face the commission on Wednesday to outline the practical benefits of a treaty.

"Treaty can provide Aboriginal communities with the tools to repair, rekindle and expand our ability to care for country," Mr Berg said.

The pair will also answer questions about systemic injustices experienced by Aboriginals connected to land, sky and waters, the focus of Yoorrook's latest inquiry.

"When it comes to Aboriginal people and country, the experts are of course Aboriginal people," said Ms Murray, a Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman.

"The more this fact is respected and embraced, the more our communities will thrive."

The commission is creating an official public record on the impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people in Victoria and will recommend actions to address historical and ongoing injustices.

Yoorrook's recommendations will have a "big influence" on the treaty agenda, the assembly said.

Environment Minister Steve Dimopoulos told the inquiry on Tuesday he believed none of the $1.89 billion in Victorian forestry and grazing licence revenue raised since 2010 had gone to traditional owners despite mechanisms to distribute royalties.

Callum Goode - AAP


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