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Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher visits Shepparton

By Liz Mellino

Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher was in Shepparton yesterday to host two community forums.

Ms Gallagher has been travelling around the state meeting with indigenous and non-indigenous people, following the recent passing of Advancing the Aboriginal Treaty Process bill through Victorian Parliament.

This legislation will create the framework for the treaty process, aimed at recasting the relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Victorians.

Ms Gallagher said she was in town to inform locals about her role as the commissioner, what she was doing to aid the treaty process and some of the potential outcomes.

‘‘My role is not to negotiate treaties or advise governments what’s in a treaty and what’s not,’’ she said.

‘‘My role is to develop a mechanism and that is the Aboriginal representative body, that is the framework that will outline how we are going to develop treaties in the state of Victoria.’’

The representative body will be made up of 30 traditional owners of the land from across the state who will set the ground rules for negotiations.

The members will be elected by their fellow indigenous Victorians, with election boundaries and an electoral role set to be established.

The body is anticipated to be established by mid-2019.

Ms Gallagher said the community forums were a way to inform people about the representative body, and listen to the ideas and aspirations of both indigenous and non-indigenous Victorians.

‘‘We hope to allay some fears out there; people get a little bit nervous when you talk about Aboriginal land rights and treaties,’’ she said.

‘‘We want to advise people it’s not about people’s backyards and it’s not about people’s private properties.’’

Ms Gallagher said she believed there had to be multiple traditional-owner-based treaties that were smaller in size and culturally geographic rather than a state-wide alternative.

While she couldn’t say what would be included in the treaty because she did not set up the framework, she alluded to the possibility of a percentage of seats in parliament for indigenous Victorians or the traditional culture to be taught in schools.

‘‘There can’t be one treaty because we’re all not one people,’’ Ms Gallagher said.

‘‘I don’t know how long down the road it will be ’til we get to a point that we actually begin negotiating treaties — but we have a piece of legislation that is the first time ever in the country and that’s historic.’’