All eyes are on Victoria as legal experts from across the globe land in Melbourne to share their knowledge on their countries’ Treaty experiences
The British Columbia Treaty Commission and a Maori Land Court Judge have travelled to Victoria to speak at this year’s Native Title Conference held in Melbourne next week. It couldn’t have come at a more exciting time for Victoria as enrolment to vote in the upcoming Treaty elections has just opened.
For more details on Treaty enrolment: www.fvtoc.com.au/blog/2019/treatyenrolment
We spoke to Mark Smith, who is General Counsel for the British Columbia Treaty Commission, about the different experiences he has faced during the British Columbia Canada treaty-making process, which he plans on sharing at next week’s conference.
He said he will touch on everything from the successes, to the challenges, to the obstacles, and the failures. And said he truly believes Victoria is currently in a great position to lead Treaty discussions in Australia.
“Our process began in the early 1990’s, and so we are 25 years ahead of Victoria. But the traditional land owners and the people of Victoria have the opportunity to jump 25 years ahead,” he said.
“What we have found in British Columbia is that the sky has not fallen with treaties.
“In fact they have resulted in prosperity for the entire region where treaties have been included, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. And they have strengthened the governments of Canada, not weakened it, with another order of Indigenous government.”
Mr Smith, who also recently prepared a paper for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York, said he will also speak to the challenges of treaty-making and recent developments to improve the process, including efforts to put the negotiation on a more equal footing by recognising rights, especially rights to their lands, and the front end of the negotiations, rather than the back end, or as an end result.
“We will also give our perspective as a Commission, as a similar authority is being contemplated in the Victorian process,” Mr Smith said.
“There will be an imbalance of power in treaty negotiations, and a Commission or authority can be useful tool to level the playing field.
“We will also speak to the fundamental principle of self-determination for Indigenous peoples, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as an important underpinning to negotiations. We will speak to the importance of the Indigenous youth voice, as I am joined by my colleague Sashia Leung, a young Indigenous leader with a valuable depth of knowledge and experience at the Treaty Commission.”
While Maori Land Court Judge Carrie Wainright said she plans to share a few examples of how New Zealand has recognised Māori interests and rights without, for the most part, transferring ownership of land at the conference next week.
“A lot of what we've done has been directed towards giving Māori a voice in decision-making on topics affecting them,” Judge Wainright said.
“It's very much a work in progress, but one can see in our country a growing acceptance that what's good for Māori is good for our whole society.
“We are starting to appreciate that Māori culture is one of the few things that makes us truly unique. The retention of Māori language is intrinsic to that, and there is an unprecedented demand out there for people to learn to speak Māori. Language freights culture, and once people get involved in learning te reo Māori, as we call it, they inevitably want to know more about, and come to appreciate more, its cultural context.
“It's an exciting time, and it will be a real privilege to be involved in sharing information about our respective journeys.”
For more information on the conference visit: nativetitleconference.com.au
For further comment or information please contact Alexandra Sheehy on 0420 314 221.
Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations PO Box 431, North Melbourne VIC 3051
t: (03) 9321 5300 |
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land we work on as the First People of this country.