Treaty is complex, and more than a simple set of rules, writes Lay, proudly Gumbaynggirr and Gunganji; and a descendent of Dunghutti; Vanuatu; and various First Nations around Queensland. This is Lay’s reflection on Treaty.
If I’m being honest, I don’t want a Treaty. I see Treaty as a product of colonisation. Whether it’s a move for decolonisation is debatable. Decolonisation needs EVERY system to be either destroyed or reshaped so Indigenous people, land and culture is thriving instead of surviving. In the words of writer and historian Patrick Wolfe: “I term settler colonisation a structure rather than an event…” This also means decolonisation is a process.
In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was put forward to the Referendum Council asking for two key things: Constitutional reform (First Nations Voice to Parliament), and Treaty (Makarrata Commission). Sounds amazing – a hope for the future that could bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
This is especially important after the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which profiled 96 deaths from 1989-1996, and had 339 recommendations. Yet Aboriginal deaths in custody are worsening.
The gap between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples is in the statistics, which is why campaigns like Close the Gap were created and implemented. But how can we have a Treaty if we’re too busy dying in jail? How can we have Treaty when corporations like Adani are destroying our land and waters?
Right now, the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission is leading the Treaty process with the Victorian government and nations within the state, and on or overlapping the border. This will be the first valid document and action between Indigenous peoples and any Australian government towards Treaty.
Earlier this year, the Victorian Government’s Department of Transportation was threatening to cut down sacred birthing trees on Djab Wurrung Country and arresting the Indigenous people for protecting their centuries worth of history.
Indigenous youth suicide is so high, it’s equivalent to a neo-Stolen Generation. Every child in the Northern Territory’s juvenile detention system is Indigenous. Would Treaty change all this? Is Treaty the answer?
Treaty is complex, and more than a simple set of rules. A Treaty that will bring impact is one that will burn down what we know as ‘Australia’, and a new nation will rise from the ashes.
Over 300 language groups around the nation (which have all had their own experience with colonisation) each have to make decisions within themselves and with each other about what a national Treaty will look like.
Colonisation ends when Indigenous people say so, but what Treaty could be, is hope. Hope for a future where colonisation will be over. Indigenous people won’t be dying in custody, getting our land stolen, our children being kidnapped. We will be healthy and strong like the Old People and walking with our Ancestors into the future.
Walking beside us into this future will be brothers, sisters and siblings who came to our Country for a better life, or the descendants of the first invaders who want the same justice to happen and have worked for it.
Treaty is hope.
Treaty is justice.
Treaty is a process.
Treaty is a promise.
Treaty is now.
NAIDOC Week is a national celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Find out more at naidoc.org.au