Treaty: A Personal Perspective - Stuart McFarlane

January 13, 2019

 by Charles Pakana, Treaty Engagement Correspondent

A proud Warumungu (Tennant Creek, NT) man, member of the Stolen Generations, qualified teacher and Aboriginal Contact Officer at a high profile local government authority, Stuart McFarlane has strong connections within the Melbourne Aboriginal community.

Removed from his mother at birth, and finding her 30 years later through Link-Up Victoria, Mr. McFarlane devoted most of his adult life working in the Aboriginal community as a cultural officer and teacher.

After working as a teacher for several decades, in 2013 he joined the Darebin City Council as the Aboriginal Contact Officer. “I was longing to get back to the grassroots level and be working at that community level, which is what I missed a lot when I was working at the university,” he said.

“I don’t know what it means for me…”

When asked what Treaty in Victoria meant to him personally, Mr. McFarlane responded: “Treaty is interesting for people like myself who aren’t Traditional Owners and have a blood-land connection here. I don’t know what it means for me as a person to have a say. Not like a Traditional Owner.”

In his role as a Local Government Authority’s (LGA) Aboriginal Contact Officer, he also serves as the Council’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee Executive Officer. One result of this is that he is the “go to” person for many in the community who are seeking cultural advice and guidance.

“I think there’s a thirst by non-Aboriginal people wanting to know a little bit more [about Treaty] but there’s a little bit of a fear factor for them,” he said. “They go ‘Well, it’s not really any of our business so we’d better just wait and watch’.

“But it is nice to bring them on the journey as well. Treaty is everyone’s business.”

“What’s my role?”

Like so many other Aboriginal people living in Victoria yet not belonging to a Victorian Traditional Owner group, Mr. McFarlane voices the questions that are being increasingly asked.

“What’s my role in the Treaty process as a non Traditional Owner…as an Aboriginal not from this Country?” and “What role do I have in helping with dissemination of that [Treaty] information in the current job that I have?”

Without doubt those are important questions. They are questions that demand answers in order for non Victorian Traditional Owner Aboriginal People to feel that Treaty can heal the wounds they too have experienced over the years.