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.