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Treaty and First Peoples Morning Tea

Read about the important gathering of First Peoples representatives at Government House


Last month marked a significant occasion at Government House Victoria, with the Governor hosting a Treaty and First Peoples morning tea to bring together First Peoples representatives in the State.

The event was attended by representatives of Victoria’s key First Peoples organisations, as well as by the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples and senior executives from the Victorian Public Service.

The event was a landmark moment, with the three bodies representing Truth, Treaty and Voice in Victoria all represented in the room. It also occurred at a special moment in Victoria’s history, as the Yoorrook Justice Commission concludes in mid-2025, whilst the representatives of Voice and Treaty make important progress delivering on self-determination.

The morning tea provided an opportunity to continue discussions on how solutions and frameworks offered to First Peoples can be informed by lived experience and cultural understanding.

First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria

At her inauguration in August 2023, the Governor spoke of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria’s role in ensuring First Peoples’ voices are heard. The Assembly is the democratic voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria.

The Governor speaking to guests at the Treaty and First Peoples morning tea
The Governor speaking to guests at the Treaty and First Peoples morning tea

Speaking to the gathering, the Governor congratulated the Assembly on what is has achieved since its inaugural meeting in 2019.

Co-Chair Ngarra Murray also spoke at the gathering, reflecting on how powerful First Peoples movements throughout history have brought the Assembly to where it is today.

‘Treaty for us is about constructively working with the reality that our respective sovereignty is relational and must find a way to coexist.’
– Ngarra Murray, Co-Chair

Co-Chair Reuben Berg spoke of the importance of continuing dialogue between the Assembly and the Victorian Government.

Yoorrook Justice Commission

Commissioners of the Yoorrook Justice Commission were also in attendance to reflect on the importance of the Commission’s ongoing truth-telling work. The Commission is the nation’s first formal truth-telling process, investigating injustices against First Peoples in Victoria since colonisation.

The Governor with Commissioners of the Yoorrook Justice Commission.
The Governor with Commissioners of the Yoorrook Justice Commission.

Last year, the Commission delivered its second interim report the to the Governor, which focused on the child protection and criminal justice systems.

Chair of the Yoorrook Justice Commission, Aunty Eleanor Bourke AM indicated that the Commission is now looking into land, sky and waters, health, housing and education, and economic prosperity.

‘The work and actions of the Assembly, Treaty Authority and the Tribunal along with the Yoorrook Justice Commission are beacons for our people here and First Nations people in other states and territories.’
– Aunty Eleanor Bourke, Chair

Commissioners and staff continue to travel across Victoria to collect evidence, visit sites of significance, hold roundtable hearings and listen to testimony directly from First Peoples. The Commission is set to deliver its final report in 2025.

Treaty Authority

The gathering also marked the first formal opportunity for representatives of the Treaty Authority to address many members of the First Peoples’ Assembly.

Following an agreement reached between the Victorian Government and the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the establishment of the Treaty Authority was marked with a ceremonial signing in June 2022.

The Governor speaking with the Chair of the Treaty Authority, Jidah Clark.
The Governor speaking with the Chair of the Treaty Authority, Jidah Clark.

Members of the Treaty Authority were appointed to ensure Treaty negotiations proceed on an equal footing. As an independent and impartial authority, they will facilitate and oversee the process and ensure its integrity, as well as administering the rules, and supporting negotiations to happen in good faith.

Chair of the Treaty Authority, Jidah Clark, identified the objectives for the Authority to achieve in the year ahead.

‘But Treaty is much bigger than me, and bigger than all of us. It will allow First Peoples to better fulfil our obligations to each other, and to Country. And it’s about resetting the relationship with the State to one built on just terms. It’s foundational to healing the soul of Victoria and the nation.’
– Jidah Clark, Chair

The Chair also spoke of the guiding values which will inform the work of the Authority – namely Fairness, Responsibility, Honour, and Connection.

Throughout the event, the links between the work of the three bodies were clear, as each contribute to nation-leading work to create a better future for all Victorians.

Read more about the work of the Victorian Government's work in the areas of cultural rights, self-determination, treaty and truth telling by visiting the First Peoples - State Relations website.

The Governor with guests at the Treaty and First Peoples morning tea.
The Governor with guests at the Treaty and First Peoples morning tea.