All First Nations have had a different path towards self-determination. Australia itself has a vast array of cultural practices, beliefs and languages which date back tens of thousands of years and are connected to the land and waters of this Country.
For many First Nations Peoples the process of gaining control over their lands, laws and cultural identities has been a slow and difficult path. Not only due to the colonial laws and institutions that have created the society we live in today not being accessible to many, but also continued oppression and rejection of the way of life for Traditional Custodians of this land.
Every other commonwealth country has Treaty/ies with its First Peoples while Australia has only seen one - the Batman Treaty (1935) - an unclear and poorly documented land agreement with the Wurundjeri people, later announced to be voided by the high court which declared Australia as terra nullius.
Many Treaties have failed to support First Peoples, silencing their voices or acting as a legal obligation to mask oppression. Other Treaties have unknowlingly been unsupportive of self-determination past the ink on paper as the intricacies of institutionalised systems of local and national economies of political systems continue to spur racism and associated injustices.
Treaty/ies will not mark the end of the road for empowering First Peoples. However, it will acknowledge the rights of First peoples in a long overdue agreement and pave the way for a Victoria of solidarity and First Peoples who receive more opportunities and a greater level of respect from local government and communities. It is a vital step in ensuring a juster and more inclusive future for Victoria and Australia. In order to effectively address current inequality and denial of rights, the Treaty/ies of Victoria need to be based on a process of self determination and involvement of communites, community leaders and Elders.
The timeline below outlines some of the key moments of the Indigenous rights movement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia.
New Zealand was not colonised until 50 years after Australia. The Treaty of Waitangi (1940) declared New Zealand to be a sovereign nation of the British Crown. In exchange, Māori were to be treated as British subjects, providing them with protection. Translated into Māori and discussed by Māori chiefs in length, the Treaty acknowledged the Māori people were seen as Traditional Owners.
Despite the hardships such as displacement and racism upon Māori people of this time, they received considerably more respect than Australia's First Peoples. Māori people were also observed to be warriors and fought off British colonisation for 40 years meaning the Crown was more inclined to set out a formal agreement. Despite all this, the Treaty was never formally ratified into law, and was called "a simple nullity" just 40 years later.
The United States has a long history of Treaties. As trading was taking place along the North American coast in the 17th and 18th century, agreements became a normalised practice though they were often geared towards assimilation and the Crown's acquirement of land and resources.