Standing and sessional orders

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (15:31:10) — I move:

That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended on Wednesday, 28 March 2018, so as to allow:

(1)   business to be interrupted immediately after the conclusion of constituency questions and the Victorian treaty advancement commissioner, Jill Gallagher, AO, Geraldine Atkinson, Paul Briggs, OAM, Vicki Clark, Janine Coombs and Mick Harding to attend on the floor of the house;

(2)   the visitors to carry into the house a wooden message stick, wooden digging stick and shield;

(3)   the house to proceed with the order of the day relating to the second reading of the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Bill 2018;

(4)   after debate on the bill is adjourned, two of the visitors to address the house in English and Aboriginal languages for up to 5 minutes each to explain what the bill and the broader treaty process means to them, their families and Victorian Aboriginal communities and how it may support reconciliation to benefit all Victorians;

(5)   the Premier, Leader of the Opposition, a representative of the Greens and each Independent member up to 5 minutes each to respond to the visitors’ remarks;

(6)   the visitors to leave the floor of the house following the responses.

I am pleased to stand here speaking in favour of this motion, not just because it is historic. We know that twice before traditional owners have been present on the floor of the house. The first time it happened was in the year 2000, and the daughter of one of the speakers who spoke then, Uncle Kevin Coombs, has been invited to join us tomorrow. The fact that we have traditional owners being invited onto the floor may not be remarkable for the fact that they are attending, because it has happened before, but more so for the reason that they are attending. Without debating the bill that has been first read, I will say that our commitment to advancing the treaty process with Aboriginal Victorians is founded on reconciliation, and certainly we know it is the right thing to do.

The bill we will debate was developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group based on what community consultations have happened over the last two and a half years. We know that this discussion is simply about recognising the past, acknowledging the present and certainly respecting and planning for the future. What better way to demonstrate this partnership and show how serious we are about self-determination than by having strong Aboriginal voices accompany the bill’s second reading. The Victorian treaty advancement commissioner and the working group have been the driving force behind the Victorian treaty process to date. They will continue to shape the steps towards a treaty, and it is fitting that the Parliament recognises their leadership and achievements by inviting the commissioner and five representatives of the working group as guests onto the floor of the Parliament.

More Aboriginal people and more voices should be welcomed into this space, from which they have been largely excluded over many, many years. This is a powerful opportunity for this Assembly to hear from Jill Gallagher, who is the commissioner, and the working group chair, Mick Harding, about what treaty means to them, to their families and to the community. They will share with all of us why treaty is needed and what aspirations are involved with treaty. Members of the Parliament, I welcome the opportunity for you to listen to Aboriginal people to appreciate the significance of the bill as a foundation for building a modern treaty process in partnership with Aboriginal Victorians.

There have been some discussions over the last few days about the opposition feeling discomfort with traditional owners speaking after the second-reading speech. We do not agree this is a problem. The motion makes it obvious that they are not participating in the debate, and I am sure that members in this place can easily make the distinction between genuine debate that we will have around the bill and what this motion provides, which is allowing strangers in the form of traditional owners onto the floor to talk. We can only move forward on the path of treaty, and if we do so together with Aboriginal Victorians, I know we can make a significant step forward.