Victorian Context

RecVic’s involvement to date

Reconciliation Victoria's current approach has been to keep our networks up to date on current progressions via our website, regular eNews updates and through our Reconciliation Network forums. Reconciliation Victoria have maintained a focus on the unique requirements of just and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Victoria as an approach to all of our work. We will continue to share ongoing updates and factual information about constitutional recognition, self-determination, sovereignty and the treaty process together with anything that has potential national and/or state implications.

Reconciliation Victoria are aware of the diversity of Victorian perspectives on the issue of constitutional reform. As an organisation we believe that working to negotiate and establish treaties and agreements is central to moving reconciliation forward and that this can occur in parallel and continue beyond the national constitutional reform agenda. We appreciate the complexity of this space and strive to work in a culturally safe manner.

Reconciliation Victoria encourages the reconciliation network to stay informed, and to talk with your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members about their reactions to this most recent iteration of proposed constitutional reform. But it is not our time to act just yet. There is a process in train, we will wait for Aboriginal communities and individuals to determine appropriate directions and then we will have some principles on which our actions can be based. We need to wait for these outcomes before we start to act. 

Reconciliation Victoria seek to put the proposal for Constitutional Reform in the broader context of the reconciliation journey, where it has come from, where it could lead and what it could mean for the bigger picture of Australia’s national identity, including treaties.

Due to the current complexity of the political context Reconciliation Victoria is not intending to hold any events around constitutional reform or treaty until there are clear developments and appropriate roles for the broader community, other than providing updates of key developments. 

Our approach has transformed over the years to reflect the changing social and political landscape and to reflect and respect the views of our Council and key stakeholders.

Prior to the Victorian Open Aboriginal Community Meeting in February 2016 our approach was (May 2013-February 2016) 

  • We facilitated over 170 events across Victoria raising awareness of the importance of CR so people could make an informed decision, this meant being upfront about some of the concerns held in a respectful and culturally safe manner as well as dispelling misinformation and misunderstanding.
  • We held over 12,000 conversations with people about Constitutional Reform through forums, stalls at festivals, school talks, and community/ organisational briefing sessions across the State during this period.
  • We undertook a community engagement strategy with the intent of being inclusive and facilitating open and respectful discussions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, and where appropriate and invited, support Aboriginal community led discussions in partnership with ACCOs.
  • Any forums where we were involved, in endeavoured, and encouraged the organisers to have a panel of speakers with differing views on constitutional reform, so there was a balanced view.

 

Reconciliation Victoria is a founding member of the Victorian Constitutional Recognition Coalition (VCRC); which was established in 2011. The VCRC connects over fifteen organisations engaged and interested in the campaign, including non-Aboriginal peak bodies and organisations. The members include: Victorian Council Of Social Services, Uniting Church, Salvation Army, Victorian Council of Churches, Faith Communities Victoria, Oxfam, ANTaR Victoria, Geelong One Fire, Shepparton Reconciliation Group, Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Moreland and Maribyrnong Councils, and Aboriginal organisations: Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Organisation (VACSAL).  

 

We have kept the reconciliation network of 35 groups across the state up to date with information and resources on the campaign, including facilitating quarterly network meetings and offering encouragement and support to groups considering and running community events in their local area.

We have relationships with the majority of the 79 local councils across the state, as well as strong partnerships with Victorian Aboriginal organisations and representative bodies, national organisations with state affiliates and universities. These relatioships also guide and inform our work.

 

What is RecVic’s position on Treaty and Constitutional Reform?

Updated - November 2016

Reconciliation Victoria supports the calls of the Aboriginal community in Victoria for the long-overdue negotiation of a Treaty, and commends the Victorian Government for its commitment to enter into these discussions. We are excited by these developments.

A Treaty – an agreement between governments and Aboriginal people – will address the nature of Australia’s settlement and colonial history and the ongoing impacts these have had on Aboriginal people, and provide Aboriginal people self determination over their own lives and futures, as shown by evidence to be the key to creating wellbeing. We believe a Treaty has the potential to create the foundation for a brighter collective future in which all of us can share: a more courageous future that embraces and learns from the cultures of our First Peoples, that acknowledges our often painful shared history and connects all of us to the fifty thousand or more years of human history of this country.

We also believe that the Australian Constitution needs to be changed, as it currently includes racist clauses and at the same time omits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia’s First Peoples. Our support for constitutional reform is conditional on the proposal of a model that is supported by the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have legitimate concerns and understandable skepticism about the constitutional reform agenda. These concerns must be better understood in the community conversation about constitutional change, so that they can be acknowledged and addressed in the development of a model for change.

The concerns stem from the legacy of brutal dispossession, illegal settlement, forced assimilation, failed policies and continuing injustices that still result in ongoing suffering and disadvantage among many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. To date there has been limited opportunity for Aboriginal people across Victoria to discuss and share their perspectives to inform the proposal for change. We believe that the Referendum Council’s Indigenous Conventions and further community meetings convened by the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Minister later this year must provide a genuine opportunity for input. The recently appointed Co-Chair of the Referendum Council Pat Anderson has recently stated that nothing would be precluded from consideration as to what form constitutional recognition would take, or indeed if it should progress at all.

It is our understanding that both state-based Treaty discussions and the national constitutional reform agenda can be progressed alongside each other. Both will represent significant milestones in our country’s history, but they must be informed by the diverse voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples if they are to be achieved.  

 

Victorian Constitution: Statement of Recognition

 

Victoria, along with New South Wales, South Australia, Queensland and soon to be Tasmania have all have enacted constitutional amendments to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. These were enacted by State parliaments, without requiring a referendum.[1]

 

Victoria’s Constitution was amended in 2004 to include s1A ‘Recognition of Aboriginal People’; there has been some criticism that this change has led to no benefit for Victorian Aboriginal peoples. Victoria is unique in having the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, both these mechanisms have required the Victorian government to acknowledge our shared history as well as protecting fundamental human rights. Victoria is now the first state to enter into treaty negotiations with Traditional Owners.

 



[1]Expert Panel Report s4.2 http://www.recognise.org.au/wp-content/uploads/shared/uploads/assets/html-report/4.html