The Victorian parliament has become the first in Australia to pass legislation to begin treaty negotiations with Indigenous peoples. It follows the Northern Territory government making a similar commitment, though not through legislation, and the New South Wales opposition promising to do the same if it wins next year’s election.
However, in South Australia, the new government has“paused” its predecessor’s commitment to treaty negotiations. Liberal Premier Steven Marshall fears treaties being no more than a “cruel hoax”, because he believes treaties won’t secure any economic benefits for Indigenous peoples. Instead, he prefers “practical outcomes” over “symbolic actions”.
He may be correct. But only if the essential relationships between the practical and symbolic are ignored, and that seems unlikely in Victoria. The Victorian legislation stresses the relationship. It establishes a representative body to lead negotiations and presumably pursue ideas already advanced by Indigenous people in Victoria.
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