The Importance of an Australian Indigenous Treaty

We ask the question ‘Why is Australia still waiting on a treaty for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’? This is a question that is currently in the forefront of our minds. Treaty has a huge significance to First Nations People. The word Makarrata is a Yolngu word that can be understood as ‘the coming together after a struggle’. Using the foundations of justice and self determination, we can move forward and create a brighter future for Indigenous people. 

“The suppression of truth has impacted Indigenous people, we’re misunderstood and there’s a lot of ignorance and misconception with our people…. If we’re telling our stories and sharing experiences, maybe by doing that we can walk together into the future” - Shara Delaney, Quandamooka woman, Bundarra Partner Artist

Image by Jacky Zeng 

There has been a long history of many different leaders pushing for a treaty. Starting in 1930, the Aboriginal Progressive Association collected 1,814 signatures petitioning Prime Minister Joseph Lyons and King George VI to acknowledge and grant representation in Federal Parliament. In 1948, Indigenous peoples were granted citizenship, and in 1962 the vote came at last. The last move forward was in 2009 with the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, here we are, still without a treaty. 

The 2019 NAIDOC theme “Voice, Treaty, Truth”, originated from the 2017 Ulura Statement from the Heart: a set of reforms formed from generations of discussions and consultations among Indigenous people. This theme highlighted the importance of giving a voice to First Nations people to acknowledge their history and the true history of Australia. 

“As an Indigenous person I don’t feel my voice is heard in modern Australia. I think a treaty would accomplish coexistence for Non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. A treaty is about treating Indigenous people with the dignity and respect that we deserve as human beings...” - Iesha Iselin, Mununjali Nunukal woman, Bundarra Model

An Australian Indigenous treaty is a way of being able to move forward. A treaty would recognise and acknowledge the injustice that has been endured, and the extensive Indigenous history that occurred prior to occupation. It would be a basis for regional self -government, create better protection for Indigenous rights and would be a way of creating shared goals. Makarrata represents positive change by truthfully recounting Australia’s history and creating a better future for First Nations people. 

Here at Bundarra we recognise the importance of a treaty and its role in giving voice to Indigenous stories, culture and history. Bundarra model, Lafe Charlton expresses this sentiment perfectly:

“If a treaty was established and it was honored from this day forward, Aboriginal people would have a louder voice in how Australia evolves as a nation.”

We hope that Australia can move forward with this issue so a shared future can be created for everyone.