The Traditional Owners of this land are those who identify as
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

Sovereignty was never ceded.

ANTAR pays respect to Elders past, present, and emerging through our dedicated advocacy for First Nations Peoples’ justice and rights.

ANTAR acknowledges the responsibility of committing to a truth-telling process that promotes an honest and respectful path forward for future generations to build upon.

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4 minutes

Time for truth and treaty

Dr Peter Lewis Professor Richard J Frankland
Last edited: May 31, 2024

As a nation, when it comes to reconciliation between First Nations and non-Indigenous peoples, we seem to constantly line up at the blocks only to stumble after several false starts.

The 90s saw the reconciliation process guided by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. The early 2010s saw the Recognise campaign and the 2020s was the referendum for First Nations voice and recognition in the constitution.

But that is not the end of the story. Over 6 million people accepted the invitation from First Nations leaders embodied in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We must now see that the so-called journey for reconciliation begun by the Hawke/Keating governments in the 90s has now been replaced, reformed and reframed by the invitation for unity that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The task is to get more people, and governments, to accept that invitation for voice truth and treaty as the means to addressing Indigenous disadvantage and creating national unity. That is what Allies for Uluru, a coalition of civil society organisations, corporations and community groups, is all about; both up to, during the referendum campaign and after, now. As our statement says “we will not be fair-weather allies, we will not turn back and we will not hesitate in continuing to fight for justice and self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

In Victoria we have a functional voice, truth, treaty process that is making progress.

In 2022 we were inspired by both government and opposition parties when the Victorian Parliament passed the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018, and particularly the passing of the Treaty Authority and Other Treaty Elements Act 2022 with bipartisan support and the First Nations ceremony that accompanied it.

These were proud days for Victoria.

The withdrawal of bipartisan support for the Treaty Process in Victoria by the leader of the opposition in January this year was, for us, and for many long-term supporters of the reconciliation movement, a betrayal of the state’s aspiration for being just, honorable and trustworthy partner with First Nations peoples and, frankly, a betrayal of Victoria.

The Liberal and National Parties expressed as a reason for rejecting the treaty process, the desire to focus on closing the gap instead. Hopefully by now they have read at least the Executive Summary of the Productivity Commission’s final report ‘Review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap’ which reveals that continuing down the same path of Government reforms as ‘business as usual’ is tokenistic and a recipe for failure. The Productivity Commission’s Review makes absolutely clear that real partnership approaches, such as treaty processes, which rebalance power between First Nations communities and governments, is essential to avoid the continued failures of closing the gap framework.

The fundamental change required is to shift the power balance from governments and their bureaucracies to First Nations peoples and their community-controlled organisations. The report not only highlights self-determination as the only real pathway to address this imbalance, but uses the  Victorian Treaty and truth-telling processes as an example of best practice.

In 2023, no leader was strong enough to cut through the lies and misinformation of ‘No’ Campaign in failed Nation Voice referendum. We are deeply that concerned that political opportunism will lead to further community division on how the gaps between First Nations peoples and the rest of the community can be bridged. People voted No for a variety of reasons and it is disingenuous to suggest that it meant a rejection of First Nations aspirations for voice, truth and treaty. The Victorian truth and treaty process is unique, and is currently leading the country as proof that a pathway toward addressing unfinished business is possible.

What we now call ‘Australia’ is a work in progress. Progress and true unity as a nation will only come through facing the truth and building structures towards a tomorrow Australia.

Dr Peter Lewis
Co-Chair - ANTaR Victoria; President - ANTAR; Research Development Manager - Koorreen

Peter has worked in First Nations affairs as a researcher and advocate for over 25 years. He is Co-Chair of ANTaR Victoria, ANTAR President, and Research Development Manager for Koorreen Enterprises. Peter has worked in senior positions at SNAICC, Oxfam Australia and VACCA since 2004.

Professor Richard J Frankland
Managing Director - Koorreen Enterprises; Co Chair - ANTaR Victoria

Richard Frankland is a proud Gunditjmara Man who lives on country in south-west Victoria.

His roles include an Investigator for the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Royal Commission, Fisherman, Musician, Author, Writer for Live Theatre, Screen Writer, Director of Stage and Screen, Theatrical Producer, CEO, Keynote Speaker for Theatrical Institutions, Workshop Facilitator and Key Note Speaker in Indigenous Issues including Lateral Violence, Cultural Safety, Community Capacity Building and Associate Dean, Associate Professor, Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts and most importantly, Family Man.

Despite leaving school at the age of 13, Richard has notched up many academic achievements. In 2007 he completed his Master of Arts at RMIT University with a thesis entitled ‘The Art, Freedom and Responsibility of Voice’. In 2019 Richard completed his doctorate and was awarded his Doctor of Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Melbourne a dissertation on his life’s achievements and contributions towards Indigenous Australian’s cultural and community foundations. He was formerly an Associate Professor, Cross Disciplinary Practice at the University of Melbourne’s School of Theatre, Film and Television.

Richard’s current roles include Managing Director, Koorreen Enterprises and Co Chair, ANTaR Victoria.

Richard’s lifelong work has been to facilitate the voice of Indigenous Australians via his many public personas. Richard constantly reminds people that: “We are not a problem people, we are people with a problem and that problem was colonisation”.