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New poll shows decline in support for Treaty and truth-telling, despite Victoria moving forward with the process

Dechlan Brennan -

A new poll has revealed a nation-wide drop in support for Treaty, despite some states advancing their own negotiations.

The Resolve Political Monitor, conducted on behalf of The Age/Sydney Morning Herald found support for treaty negotiations has dropped from 58 per cent in October, to 33 per cent this month.

The results are implied to be a direct result of the failed Voice referendum in October, which saw every state reject the proposal to enshrine Indigenous recognition and a Voice to Parliament in the constitution.

The results come at the same time as Victoria gears up for the beginning of Treaty negotiations between the First Peoples' Assembly and the State government, with the funding guidelines for the Self-Determination fund recently announced.

The poling also highlighted the support for a truth-telling process - run by the Makarrata Commission and which would record the treatment and historical wrong-doings towards Indigenous people since colonisation - sitting at 35 per cent, with 31 per cent opposed and 34 per cent undecided.

The director of Resolve, Jim Reed, told The Age/SMH even support for Indigenous recognition, without a Voice attached and what always enjoyed majority support, has now "collapsed".

"Support for a national treaty is less popular still, with just a third in favour of one. Even truth-telling, a legislated Voice, or government listening to one that is completely independent are minority positions," Mr Reed said.

Overall, the results revealed Greens voters were most likely to support a Commonwealth Treaty and the Makarrata truth-telling, whilst Coalition voters were most likely to not support them.

Despite the results, truth-telling and Treaty negotiations have continued to advance at varying speeds throughout Australia's jurisdictions.

Most forthright is in Victoria, where the Treaty elections in May and June ushered in new representatives to negotiate Treaty with the state government, as well as allowing the empowerment of Traditional Owner groups in negotiation of Treaties that "reflect aspirations and priorities specific to their areas."

The state has also experienced truth-telling in the form of the Yoorrook Justice Commission, which saw ministers, the Police Commissioner, and former Premier Daniel Andrews all to appear or make submissions.

The government is considering their next steps in enacting the recommendations from the commission's interim recommendations, with former Premier Daniel Andrews admitting they would be "challenging" in the time-frame recommended.

After the October 14 referendum, Assembly Co-Chair and Gunditjmara man, Reuben Berg, said the Assembly would continue to work towards Treaty.

"We've seen some really amazing progress we're already making here in Victoria, and I expect us to continue making that amazing progress," he said at the time.

Fellow Co-Chair, Ngarra Murray, told the Age last month the referendum had only strengthened the Assembly's resolve to enact Treaty.

"While we thought a federal Voice would have had its benefits and be complementary to our work, the outcome of the referendum doesn't really change what we are doing here," the Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman said.

During the Voice campaign, both co-chairs said they wanted other states, as well as the country, to have what Victoria was already in the process of achieving.

In NSW, Premier Chris Minns has said he remains committed to Treaty even as Guardian Australia reported he was not planning to take a Treaty proposition to the next election - likely to be held in 2027.

However, the state's Aboriginal affairs minister, David Harris, revealed last month Labor was aiming to set up an independent treaty commission by mid-2024. It would guide the government's consultations with Indigenous people.

"(The premier) wasn't talking about the process. You've got to put in place a process for a negotiation to happen," he said at the time.

In Queensland, the LNP opposition, which polling shows will likely win the election in October next year, rescinded their bi-partisan support for truth-telling and Treaty after the referendum - where only 31 per cent of the state voted Yes - labelling it "divisive".

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk vowed to forge ahead with the truth-telling process after October 14 but admitted Treaty was a "long way off" and would need bi-partisan support.

Queensland's Human Rights Commissioner, Scott McDougall, urged both parties ro forge on ahead with the process, saying the aftermath of the referendum wasn't the time for "rash decision making".

The Northern Territory Opposition says it will sideline Treaty talks if it wins government, instead committing to a "major shake-up" of remote Aboriginal community councils.

The federal government has remained relatively quiet on truth-telling and Treaty processes after the result, which has seen polls indicate they are losing support as a result - directly or otherwise - for their support of the Voice.

This week, Ministers, Coalition of the Peaks and Australian Local Government Association will meet at the Joint Council for Closing the Gap in Melbourne to discuss progress of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, is expected to have to say on the next steps to supporting truth-telling, according to The Age.

An unsigned letter on behalf of some leaders and groups that supported the Yes campaign after a 'week of mourning' from the referendum result, said they would "maintain the vision of the Uluru Statement from the Heart."

They also said they would explore ways to implement an independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice without constitutional recognition or legislative backing.


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