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From National Indigenous Times

On Thursday, a significant day in Queensland’s history was marked as the Path to Treaty Act 2023 was officially passed by the Queensland Parliament.

The Act was passed during the Far North Queensland Regional Parliamentary Sitting and notes a historic moment for both the state and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Interim Truth and Treaty Body (ITTB), appointed in August 2022, played a vital role in the development of the Path to Treaty Act 2023, and in advancing the Truth and Treaty process during their tenure.

Professor Michael Lavarch AO, a member of the ITTB Board and a key contributor to the drafting of the Act, has highlighted that it is the first of its kind in Queensland and has prioritised the interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by incorporating relevant clauses into the Act.

“This is why the passing of the Path to Treaty Act 2023 is such an extraordinary occasion—it ensures First Nations peoples have the freedom and power to make decisions and craft solutions on their own terms,” said Mr Lavarch.

“We’ve certainly come a long way since the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act in 1897, which did not allow this freedom of rights.”

The Path to Treaty Act in 2023 in Queensland is grounded in the UN Declaration to the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and identifies key bodies to be appointed to advance the truth-telling and healing process and to prepare communities for treaty negotiations.

The Act establishes the Truth Telling and Healing Inquiry to conduct the formal process of truth-telling and healing, and the First Nations Treaty Institute and its Council to oversee development of treating with First Nations parties.

To facilitate this the ITTB are leading community engagement with communities across the State to seek input on establishing these key structures.

Members of Queensland’s Interim Truth and Treaty Body. Image: supplied.

Ms Cheryl Buchanan and Sallyanne Atkinson AO, ITTB co-chairs, said it was important we get the next steps right to set a firm foundation to progress this work.

“Generosity of spirit needs to occur for treaty to be beneficial and for our future generations to live a good life,” said Ms Buchanan.

“We all have anger and some type of hurt we carry which will come out in the truth telling process—we need to capture that energy and direct it in a positive way that we can create the change that is well overdue in Queensland. Our time for truth telling, our time for treaty is now.”

Consultations with First Nations communities will help shape the governance and selection of the Institute and its Council, with the aim of ensuring authenticity and inclusivity. This approach recognises the diverse needs and perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Queensland and supports effective truth-telling, healing, and treaty negotiations.

The ITTB will conduct Community Yarning sessions until November 2023 and prepare a report with recommendations on establishing structures based on the community’s input. The report will be submitted to the Minister for Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford.

“We know there is a willingness for people to hear and get more involved in the Truth and Treaty discussions, and our Community Yarning sessions open up this dialogue to include community perspectives and aspirations into the structures that will take this historic work forward,” said Ms Atkinson.

The ITTB would like to invite community members to come along to an event, have a yarn, some lunch, and share their views on how we can progress Truth and Treaty in Queensland. More information can be found here.