Ironically, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s rejection of the 2017 Statement from the Heart, proposing more meaningful national engagement with Indigenous peoples, has accelerated demands for a treaty process across the country. Victoria and the Northern Territory have both moved ahead on this front in recent weeks.
But enthusiasm for treaties at the state and territory level is misplaced. The legal, political and economic power to effect real change lies only at federal level. Local treaty action may be a symbol of goodwill, but it is the very foundation of the Australian Constitution that must be changed.
Greens MP Lidia Thorpe, the first Indigenous woman elected to state parliament, maintains that Indigenous sovereignty must be asserted in the Victorian treaty process. However, this is not possible. States and territories cannot enter into treaties with sovereign nations - they can only sign agreements or domestic acts akin to land rights, vulnerable to political expediency.
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