11 August 2021
The Taungurung First Nation people reject the 38 nations proposal to change the representation of those progressing Victoria’s historic Treaty process, as it would undermine and dismantle the immense gains made by Victorian Traditional Owners over the last sixteen years.
The proposal for 38 nations – sometimes referred to as the 33, 34, 42, 44, 52 nations proposal – is designed to tear apart Traditional Owner Nations and has been used as a way for individuals to elevate their own voice and agendas.
The Taungurung people are deeply concerned that this proposal has been made, especially by those we should stand in solidarity with – other Victorian Traditional Owners.
We urge the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria (the Assembly) not to do anything that would undermine hard-fought and historically significant gains as they design the path towards Treaty in Victoria.
The Taungurung people recognise and respect every member of the Assembly as being a member of a First Nation group worthy of the same recognition and benefits that Taungurung and other groups have already received.
Treaty-making is the business of Nations. The experience of First Peoples worldwide is that it is Nations that negotiate treaties with dominant colonising societies. It must be no different in Victoria, where First Nation Groups can be identified for every inch of land.
The advancement of Traditional Owner rights in Victoria commenced with the first positive determination of Native Title in Victoria in 2005, when the State and Federal Governments consented to the Federal Court finding of native title for the Wimmera Clans based in the Horsham area. There have subsequently been such determinations for three other Traditional Owner groups in the State.
Traditional Owner recognition was greatly strengthened by two immensely significant pieces of legislation through the Victorian Parliament:
- The Aboriginal Heritage Act in 2006, which enables Traditional Owner groups to manage their own cultural heritage if recognised as Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs), and
- The Traditional Owner Settlement (TOS) Act in 2010, which enables Victorian First Nation groups to receive native title-type recognition and benefits without having to go through the onerous Court processes of the Federal Native Title Act
Taungurung as a Traditional Owner Nation was founded on the principles of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and remains first and foremost a Traditional Owner Nation.
Taungurung’s collective coordination, cohesion and strength of community decision-making enables us to perform the statutory functions of a RAP and to fulfil our cultural obligations, honouring our ancestors.
We believe that the 38 nations model would weaken the historic strides Taungurung and other Traditional Owners have made and would be a detriment to Traditional Owners, the treaty-making process, and the future of Victoria.
Taungurung stands in solidarity with all Nations and not with individuals with no cultural authority who purport to speak for country.