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Elder calls for recognition of all Victorian nations

Adrian Black -

Victoria needs to recognise and fund all of its Aboriginal nations and clans, and repatriate ancestral remains being held in museums, an inquiry has been told.

Only 11 of 38 Aboriginal Victorian nations are recognised as Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) by the state's Aboriginal Heritage Council, Elder Gary Murray told the Yoorrook Justice Commission on Friday.

"At the moment, the RAPs are funded ... the native title groups are funded, and they're getting good, they're getting strong, they're getting outcomes," Mr Murray told the inquiry.

"But those unfunded groups are left in no mans land."

Some of the unrecognised nations included Bidwell in eastern Victoria, Yaithmathang and Duduroa in the northeast, Waywurru and Wadi Wadi.

"If we're going to do anything with treaty, or cultural heritage or native title ... the benefits have to be equitably distributed," Mr Murray said.

He said the heritage council should be abolished for delivering only 11 registrations in 17 years, and called for it to be replaced with a truly representative body.

"The heritage council is appointed by the minister (for Aboriginal affairs) so where does self-determination lie with that?"

According to Mr Murray, native title representative bodies were also failing to support all groups with legitimate claims to Country.

"They go out and they pick one out and that's it," he said.

"War starts between the groups.

"You've got the unfunded groups, trying to fight a multimillion-dollar native title rep (sic) body with all their flash lawyers and the rest of it."

The Elder also called for the repatriation of ancestral remains from museums so they could be buried appropriately.

"We had 2000 of our ancestors both interstate and Victoria still sitting in the museum," he said.

"They should not be sitting in a concrete jungle in Carlton in a museum in drawers and filing cabinets."

Mr Murray described the history of the Victorian land rights movement and his activism decades earlier in groups around Collingwood, streets away form Yoorrook Justice Commission offices.

"We don't forget what has happened to us, ever," he said.

"We don't forget the dispossession, the dispersal, the deculturalisation, the loss of our language and all the other bad stuff that's happened to us. Never.

"And we've got to fix it. That's the most crucial thing, you've got to fix it."

Earlier, the commission heard evidence from Professor John Borrows on Canadian treaties and the path to self-determination.

"(There's) a kind of a laboratory of experimentation, where self-determination is taking many different forms to meet the needs of the varied aspirations of the different communities," he told the inquiry.

He said in the past four decades about 40 per cent of Canada's landmass had been covered by treaties with First Peoples.

PhD student Minda Murray said Indigenous Australians were enacting many forms of self-determination but there was a key difference.

"Australia is not yet treatied with any of its Indigenous peoples," the Yorta Yorta and Duduroa woman said.

Premier Jacinta Allan due to appear at the inquiry on Monday.

Adrian Black - AAP


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