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Victorian premier says referendum result will not interfere with Treaty negotiations

Dechlan Brennan -

Victorian premier Jacinta Allan has said the referendum result on the weekend will not hinder Treaty negotiations that are set to take place between the First Peoples’ Assembly members and the state government. 

It comes as federal Opposition leader Peter Dutton ruled out a Federal Government Treaty with First Nations peoples, claiming it will cost “tens of billions of dollars” in legal fees and “reparations.” 

On Tuesday, Premier Allan said the state has been on a clear trajectory towards Treaty negotiations for some time.

“We have been for some time now on a really clear path to how we can better listen and work with Indigenous Victorians to get better outcomes and we will continue on that path…that won’t change,” she said. 

“What’s been a feature of the work we’ve done here in Victoria is that the legislation that went through the parliament a few years ago – that had bipartisan support.

“So we’ve had strong support here in the parliament for the mechanisms we’ve set up here in Victoria to better listen to Indigenous Victorians to establish the First People’s Assembly, establish the Yoorrook Justice Commission, because truth is such an important part of the path were on.”

On Sunday, Assembly co-chair and Gunditjmara man, Reuben Berg, said the state would continue to work towards Treaty. 

“...here in Victoria in particular, we're going to be focused on the treaty making process and we're hopeful that other States and territories can continue on their own process as well,” he said. 

Ms Allan acknowledged it had been a hard weekend for First Nations people. 

“We obviously understand that Indigenous Victorians are doing it tough at the moment,” she said.

“It was a tough weekend, and we are right now focused on providing them with support that they need and will continue to do that. But also, to very clear signal that the path we’re proud to be on here Victoria won’t change.”

Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam said the outcome on the weekend was “heartbreaking” but the party would continue to work on truth and treaty. 

“We want to send our love and solidarity to all First Nations communities and all the campaigners who poured their hearts into it and invited us to be part of a journey towards healing,” she told reporters. 

“It’s important now that we don’t give up and we won’t. That’s why the Greens, alongside First Nations communities, will continue to work towards truth, and treaty with unwavering determination.

“We’re going to fight to stop the over-incarceration of First Nations communities and end deaths in custody. And in Victoria, that means raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and continuing to reform Victoria’s bail laws.” 

On Tuesday morning, Mr Dutton told 3AW that he didn’t support a Treaty as a mechanism to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

“The treaty process, as it’s proposed, the advocates say will be between 20 and 30 years. I think you will end up spending tens of billions of dollars in legal fees, in reparation payments,” he said.

“I think the public sent a very clear message last Saturday. They’re not interested in that.

“They’re interested in practical outcomes for Indigenous Australians, but they don’t support a voice in the treaty and Makarrata and truth-telling and the rest of it. They want practical support to improve the lives of Indigenous kids and women, in particular. And certainly, in those remote areas. And that’s what we support.”

Indigenous groups have consistently called for First Nations voices to be listened to first and foremost in any policy concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. This was echoed by the findings in the Yoorrook interim report. 

Victoria’s Treaty negotiations have put Indigenous voices front and centre. The Treaty Negotiations Framework has set out the process for negotiations for both a state-wide treaty, and Traditional Owners Treaties between the State and First Peoples.  

The Victorian government says this, “reflects that self-determination can be exercised by all First Peoples in Victoria collectively, and individually by Traditional Owner groups".

The Treaty Negotiation Framework guarantees an open and inclusive Treaty process and allows all Indigenous groups in the state the opportunity to register for Treaty negotiations.

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