As Victoria moves forward with Treaty negotiations, the State Government has launched Deadly and Proud, a platform to empower Victoria’s Aboriginal stories.

Launched on Monday, the Deadly and Proud campaign is encouraging Victorians to celebrate truth-telling and local Aboriginal history.

The campaign focuses on pride, resilience and raises awareness of Victoria’s path to Treaty, truth and justice. 

The truth-telling is anchored by an online platform called Deadly and Proud, which shares Victoria’s stories of pride through an interactive map of the state.

Deadly and Proud builds on the Victorian Government’s Deadly Questions campaign. Launched in 2018, it focuses on bringing the wider Victorian community onto the State’s historic path to Treaty.

Victoria is the only State or Territory in Australia to begin Treaty negotiations with its First Nations people. The Northern Territory is currently exploring models for Treaty.

A storyteller on the new platform, Gunai, Gunditjmara and Yorta Yorta man Stephen Thorpe is a chef at social enterprise restaurant Charcoal Lane.

He trains young First Nations chefs at the restaurant, as well as upskilling First Nations people preparing to enter the workforce with general hospitality and workplace skills.

For Deadly and Proud, Thorpe speaks about the Warrigal Creek Massacre; where an estimated 60 to 180 Aboriginal people were surrounded and killed by the English. It is a local history that Thorpe said is not widely shared.

He said the State’s commitment to truth and justice as a way of working towards Treaty is about acknowledging the historical context as well as present realities.

“There are wrongs that have happened in the past that have shaped Victoria and the relationships people have in this state.”

“We have to be courageous and acknowledge what’s happened, [being] in denial and denying the things that have been hard to look back on, the things that are the foundation of this country and of Victoria, there’s so much pain and trauma in that denial. It has a big impact on how we relate to each other,” Thorpe said.

“I think justice and truth involves a considered, timely and well-resourced process of acknowledging these stories in a safe way.”

Thorpe added that upon reflecting on the massacres that were spoken about on the platform, the importance of storytelling as a vehicle for First Nations history was evident.

“That’s our culture, storytelling and sharing oral history,” he said.

“The removal of our people represented the severing of our histories being passed down, it’s our connection to thousands and thousands of generations, the wisdom and the knowledge they held, the caretaking of Country.

“Through those stories, we were connected to our land and there is such a massive loss of complexity in understanding Country, I think it’s evident in society today.”  

Thorpe said he wants the wider Victorian community to understand that the process of colonisation, especially an event such as the Warrigal Creek Massacre, has such a devastating impact on not just families but Aboriginal culture and history, too.

“It’s so important to do this truth-telling and bring those stories out into the open,” he said.

“We want our counterparts in Victoria to come on board, to educate themselves about Victoria’s history so they can be more informed and more connected to Country and reflect on their place in it.” 

To read more stories from the Deadly and Proud campaign, head here.

By Darby Ingram