Treaty with whom?

Lidia Thorpe, Greens Senator and spokesperson on First Nations, argues for the importance of Treaty rather than moving first to Voice as proposed by the Uluru Statement from the Heart. In doing so she inverts the order proposed by a representative group of First Nations people and sows confusion that could result in defeating the best chance for progress.

I don’t disagree that Treaty is essential. In its absence it might be argued that settler Australia is technically still at war with the original inhabitants. Other British colonies, including New Zealand, did establish treaties even if they did not always do so in complete good faith or carefully observe the terms. In Australia we have never reached any such agreement and need to do so.

When the British arrived, the Australian continent was inhabited by up to 500 different ‘nations’ across a large area of land. Local agreements might have been possible but there was no mechanism for an agreement covering the entire continent. Even now there are clearly divergent views among First Nations.

A necessary prelude to any treaty would be establishment and recognition of a body with whom it might be negotiated. In Victoria that has been done through establishment of a First Peoples’ Assembly as a prelude to Treaty negotiations.

Surely that would be one role of a Voice to the Federal Parliament. Moving first to establish by referendum the principle that there should be First Nations Voice is a logical first step. Once the constitution is changed Parliament can legislate to create the Voice in a suitable format. Then it will be possible to engage in negotiations for Treaty and more.