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Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to discuss Treaty and Justice in free webinar

Dechlan Brennan -

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service is hosting an Invasion Day Webinar on Thursday January 25 to discuss Treaty and justice.

VALS said the online forum is an opportunity to "Listen to unique perspectives as our panellists share their experiences, compare global approaches, and chart the path towards productive Treaty agreements that ensure justice for First Nations communities".

The webinar will see an all First Nations panel come together, with the following four Treaty experts from Canada, Aotearoa (New Zealand) and across Australia.

They include Nerita Waight a Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri woman with Taungurung connections. Ms Waight is the chief executive of VALS, as well as a member and co-convenor of the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria, and is motivated by ensuring her two children grow up with strong connections to their culture and kin in a world safe fro Aboriginal people.

Also on the panel is proud Gunditjmara man, Reuben Berg. Mr Berg is the co-chair of the Assembly and was a member in the inaugural term. He has played a leading role in contributing to the design and negotiation of the Treaty Negotiation Framework, and regularly engages with the media over all Treaty conversations.

Joining them is Andrea Hilland KC, a member of the Nuxalk Nation on the Pacific coast of Canada. Ms Hilland is also the assistant professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia. Prior to academia, Ms Hilland advocated on behalf of Indigenous people to assert Aboriginal rights in respect to environmental issues. She was appointed King's Counsel in 2021.

The forum will also be joined by Dr Carwyn Jones, a member of the Māori iwi/nation, Ngāti Kahungunu. Dr. Jones is the lead academic in the Māori laws and philosophy at Te Wānanga o Raukawa and an honorary adjunct professor at the School of Māori Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. He has previously worked on the Waitangi tribunal, Māori Land Court, Office of Treaty Settlements and for his own community in the negotiation of treaty claims.

This year's webinar is particularly timely as it comes in the wake of the Victorian Opposition reneging on their support for Treaty. This has frustrated many Indigenous Victorians, including Ms Waight, who told The Age land rights and cultural heritage protections cited by the opposition as reasons to oppose Treaty were being used against First Nations people.

"We saw this in Howard-era politics. We're seeing it again now," she said.

In a tweet, VALS urged members of the Opposition to register for the webinar and learn more about Treaty.

"Hey @PeterWalshMP@JohnPesutto - VALS would love you to join the audience for our Invasion Day Webinar this Thursday, where a panel of experts will explain Treaty for you," they said.

The webinar starts at 4 pm AEST on Thursday, with registrations now being accepted.

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