The NNTC believes that Australia is long overdue for a Treaty or treaties with First Nations peoples, and we approach all of our policy and advocacy work from this position.
While Treaty is a key land rights issue, it intersects with many social and economic issues impacting the ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to benefit economically, socially and culturally from their traditional lands and waters.
Currently, Australia is the only Commonwealth country without a Treaty with its First Nations peoples. While many treaty-like agreements exist in Australia – such as those derived through native title – there is growing momentum to establish formal treaties, particularly across the states and territories.
There are many benefits to establishing a Treaty or treaties. Some of these include creating structures for some level of self-governance and decision-making processes; a formalised recognition of Indigenous sovereignty; funding for community-led services; and a platform for truth-telling about historical injustices, which could play a crucial role in the healing and reconciliation of the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
We believe all Australians have an interest in Treaty. Alongside the benefits listed above, a Treaty could ensure more efficient spending of public funding and better outcomes for community services. Research consistently shows that community programs aimed at improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are far more successful when they are designed and implemented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves. A Treaty could legislate these kinds of frameworks and outcomes.
Some Australian states and territories are at varying stages of negotiations for state-based treaties, including Victoria. The NNTC’s Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Lowe, is an elected representative on the historic First Peoples Assembly of Victoria, representing the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation.