The Yoorrook Justice Commission has announced their new Commissioner, with former Federal Court Judge Anthony North KC filling the vacancy left by professor Kevin Bell, who stood down from his position in October.
Commissioner North will join Victoria's formal truth telling commission after a career that has included serving as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia from 1995 to 2018 and chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC).
His area of work has included native title, refugee law, industrial law, and criminal appeals in the ACT Court of Appeal, whilst his recent employment at the VLRC involved extensive consultation with Indigenous organisations, as well as with the community on social justice issues.
Yoorrook chair and Wergaia and Wamba Wamba Elder, Eleanor Bourke, welcomed Commissioner North's appointment in what she said was a crucial period for the commission.
"As a former judge with a long and illustrious legal career, Commissioner North will bring invaluable experience and insight to Yoorrook as we work to fulfil the Commission's extensive mandate," Professor Bourke said.
Commissioner North said he was "honoured" to help contribute to Yoorrook and will commence his role immediately.
"I hope that my skills and experience will help advance its work: to tell the truth of our history," he said.
"That truth is the foundation for community understanding, which is necessary so that we can move towards a more just society."
Commissioner North joins Professor Bourke; Deputy Chair and Wurundjeri and Ngurai Illum Wurrung woman, Sue-Anne Hunter; Commissioner and Kerrupmara Gunditjmara Traditional Owner, Travis Lovett; and Commissioner and Palawa woman, Professor Maggie Walter.
Victoria's first formal truth-telling commission released an interim report in September which outlined the need for Indigenous-led responses to Victoria's criminal justice and child protection sectors.
It saw bureaucrats, ministers, the Attorney-General and the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police all give evidence, with Professor Bourke noting "seven formal apologies were made by representatives of government for the past and ongoing harm caused to Aboriginal people at the hands of the state. These apologies were important. They are now on the public record".
Some of the interim findings in the report have proven controversial; Opposition leader John Pesutto and members of the Liberal-National Coalition are reportedly uncomfortable with what Pesutto said was "two systems of law, one for Indigenous Victorians and one for non-Indigenous Victorians," and this was cited as one of the reasons behind their recent decision to abandon support for Treaty.
Yoorrook is currently investigating housing disparity and land inequality for Indigenous Victorians - which will hold public hearings in the coming months - and is set to deliver its final report to the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria and the Victorian Government in the first half of 2025.