BIG READ: Rocky’s elders take historic step towards a treaty
HISTORICALLY, the recognition of First Nations Queenslanders has left a lot to be desired but a new process is working to right past wrongs and build a pathway to a better future.
Josephine Bourne has spent the past three months travelling Queensland laying the ground work for a historic treaty agreement.
Without early treaties in place, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were displaced from their land without any negotiation, resulting in economic and social inequalities which continue to this day.
Consequently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not considered as equal partners in the development of Australia.
In response to calls from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, the Queensland Government has launched the Path to Treaty.
Path to Treaty was regarded by both sides as an opportunity to reframe the profoundly important relationship with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland, and start moving towards a shared future.
The aim of the treaty process was to help deliver greater self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities leading to stimulated local economies, creating more jobs and helping to deliver improved housing and health outcomes.
To kick off the consultation process towards a treaty, an independent Eminent Panel and Treaty Working Group including Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous representatives from various walks of life including academia, community leaders, business owners and human rights advocates was assembled to guide genuine, respectful and meaningful conversations.
A lecturer in the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, Ms Bourne's experience has proven invaluable for the panel over the past three months of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at 23 urban, rural and remote locations throughout Queensland.
Her visit to Rockhampton's Dreamtime Cultural Centre yesterday was the last stop on their journey.
She said the meeting with elders from around the Rockhampton region was a historic occasion.
"It really is the first time the Queensland Government has come to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and said 'we want to have a conversation about treaty'," Ms Bourne said.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling for a treaty for decades and this is about building a path to treaty.
"For me with the treaty process, there's a lot of hope for change. It has the potential to help us heal and help us to move on together."
In their conversations around the state, she said there were a number of issues and concerns which continually emerged.
She said there things happened in their history and there were issues still happening because people still didn't understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait culture.
"We need to come together and start talking about our shared history," she said.
"We've heard a lot in nearly every consultation that education is a big thing.
'There are a lot of things missing from the school curriculum. There needs to be more understanding of what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have experienced and what is needed for us to move together as Queenslanders."
With the consultation phase now complete, Ms Bourne said the Emininent Panel would work with a treaty working group to draft a report to the Queensland Government summarising the feedback they received and the community's vision for the future.
"There's heart breaking stories in there. There's a lot of positiveness in there as well and a lot of hope for the different generations to have conversations that we haven't had before about our experiences here in Queensland," she said.
"In a lot of ways, we're just planting the seeds here.
"We really want to try and get a relationship going with government and other sections of Queensland Society."
Given they were still at the start of the process, there was significant amounts of information to consider and extensive planning required, the time frame until the final treaty document was signed, remains unclear.
Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad described it as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity" to learn from the past and a commit to forging new agreements about how we coexist into the future upon the land we now share - accepting our shared history and moving forward together.
She hoped the series of reforms grounded in self-determination and mutual respect, taking place in a staged and consultative way, would provide for greater recognition, celebration and learning from Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have occupied and held rights over this land for more than 60,000 years.