This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the historic Barunga Statement, which called for a national Treaty recognising Aboriginal prior ownership, continued occupation and sovereignty, and the affirmation of First People’s human rights and freedoms.
The statement was presented to then Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Barunga Festival on 12 June in 1988.
The importance of treaty has been restated many times in the past three decades, including in the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation’s final report in 2000, and Reconciliation Australia’s State of Reconciliation report.
More recently, the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 outlined the importance of sovereignty and called for a Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making and facilitate a process of local and regional truth telling.
Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said the lack of a treaty or treaties between Australian Governments and First Peoples is an unresolved issue that was impeding the country’s progress towards reconciliation.
“Treaty is an important and reasonably held aspiration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel that treaty is essential to reconciliation,” she said.
“Momentum is building. These calls haven’t gone away and in fact are getting stronger. It’s heartening to see progress being made in Victoria, and the Northern Territory in particular,” Ms Mundine said.
The Victorian Parliament last night became the first Parliament in Australia to pass Treaty Legislation through the lower house.
Today will also see a Memorandum of Understanding setting out a process towards Treaty presented to Northern Territory Chief Minister Gunner by the Land Councils.
Ms Mundine noted that calls for Treaty recognise a fundamental truth that this continent was occupied, owned and cared for by First Nation’s Peoples, and was invaded and colonised without consent or Treaty.
Earlier this week saw the end of National Reconciliation Week with the theme ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’, which saw widespread engagement, discussion and truth telling as a result.
“Historical acceptance is a foundation to moving forward on large discussions around Treaty and Constitutional Reform, and we’re seeing a real willingness of the Australian public to support such moves,” Ms Mundine said.