First in the Nation
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The Australian state of Victoria passed a landmark bill to create the country’s first Indigenous treaty authority that would oversee treaty negotiations, as well as resolve disputes between traditional owner groups and the state government, the Guardian reported.
The new First Nations treaty authority will act as an independent umpire and will not report to a minister. First Nations representatives said the authority’s independence would help Indigenous communities trust the authority.
Made up of five Aboriginal leaders, the authority will employ a novel dispute process that is different from the “adversarial” nature of land justice fights, according to officials.
The new treaty process is based on models previously used in Canada’s British Columbia and New Zealand. The first treaties in the state could be signed as early as next year.
The establishment of the authority makes Victoria the first jurisdiction in Australia to implement the two main components of the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, a document written and endorsed by hundreds of Aboriginal leaders to amend the constitution to improve the representation of Australia’s Indigenous people.
The two components address the creation of a truth-telling commission and a body to oversee treaty-making processes. Last year, Victoria established the Yoorrook Justice Commission, which will also inform the state’s treaty process.
Meanwhile this week, another state, Queensland, announced a three-year Indigenous truth-telling probe. The state is currently moving forward in its treaty negotiations with its First Nations people.