The Advancing the Treaty with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018 (Advancing the Treaty Bill) was introduced to Parliament on the 7 March 2018 by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Natalie Hutchins (Parliament of Victoria, 2018). The Bill is thought to be the first drafted legislation attempting to legislate a treaty process with First Nations people in Australia.
The Advancing the Treaty Bill states that Victorian Aboriginal people maintain that sovereignty was never ceded but does not state the government's stance on the issue of sovereignty. However, the bill is considered a commitment from the Victorian Government to advance Indigenous self-determination, and a move toward reconciliation in the form of Treaty (Parliament of Victoria, 2018).
There are four key purposes of the Advancing the Treaty Bill:
- to advance the process of treaty making between traditional owners and Aboriginal Victorians, and the State; and
- to provide a mechanism for the state the recognise the Aboriginal Representative Body as the sole representative of traditional owners and Aboriginal Victorians for the purpose of establishing elements necessary to support future treaty negotiations; and
- to enshrine the guiding principles for the treaty process; and
- to require the Aboriginal Representative Body and the State to work together to establish elements necessary to support future treaty negotiations.
The Bill aims to advance the treaty making process in Victoria by providing for the establishment of an Aboriginal Representative Body (the Body). The Body is the sole representative of traditional owners and Aboriginal Victorians for the purpose of future treaty negotiations. As the Body must represent the diversity of First Nations people in Victoria, the Body must ensure that the cultures of those people are promoted and respected, and must work with these groups to ensure that all are represented within the treaty negotiations. IN addition, all elected members to the Body must be Victorian traditional owners.
The Body is tasked with establishing:
- the treaty negotiation framework
- the self determination fund
- the treaty authority: established by the Body and the State, functions to oversee and facilitate treaty negotiations, administer the treaty negotiation framework, oversee dispute negotiations and undertake research to support treaty negotiations.
- the treaty negotiation framework: established by the State and the Body