38 Nations Rally

January 30, 2019

by Charles Pakana, Treaty Engagement Correspondent

 On Friday the 26th of October, several hundred Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people converged at Birrarung Marr on the Yarra River’s north bank next to Federation Square.

The event, coordinated by the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group (VTOLJG) and Victorian Greens, was in protest of the proposed model for the Aboriginal Representative Body (ARB).

Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Bill Nicholson Jr, addressed the crowd, saying: “For a proper treaty to be conducted and get positive outcomes for the victorian community, we can’t ignore who we are as people or what our culture is; and our culture is based on lore.

“We are here protesting about the treaty arrangement that is in place at the moment, which is ignoring a number of clans from Victoria, which is not giving them a voice at the table. So how can they create their own self-determination?”

“How can you have a treaty when you’re missing a good two-thirds of the representative people to this land? It’s not acknowledging their rights to speak on its [the land’s] behalf.”


Clarification not provided


While such words certainly grabbed the attention of the assembled crowd, it was not made clear to them at the ARB will not – nor has ever been intended to – discuss any treaty on behalf of any Nation, clan or family.

This was evident in the comment from one attendee: “I’ve heard Lidia Thorpe talk on a number of occasions about the importance of treaty as negotiated with the tribes as opposed to umbrella organisations that may not represent the tribes, and I thought I should come and lend my support.”

Uncle Bobby Nicholls, co-Chair of the VTOLJG, called on the Victorian State Government and Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher, to acknowledge the “structure of our people”.

“We have come together from all corners of this State to join in one,” he said. “One voice to make the following statement about the proposal for the Aboriginal Representative Body.

“The commissioner has proposed that the 11 formally recognised nations receive reserved seats at the table while the other 27 are forced to compete for a seat in just 17 remaining seats.”

He went on to say: “Those 11 are appointed by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council which in turn is appointed by the State. They have blood on their hands as well. Not only the minister but the state.

“We outright reject the in the strongest of terms the proposal as discriminatory against the nations who are excluded.

“We are insulted by the suggestion that because we have chosen not to become a corporation or be formally recognised in a few pieces of legislation by the colonising forces, the Victorian Government, we do not have a right to a seat on the RAB [sic].”

In commenting on the currently proposed model,Uncle Bobby said: “That’s a process that will fail as it does not have the support of many elders and community leaders, which is required to required to secure sufficient voter turnout.”