The QCOSS Annual General Meeting for 2019 took place on 5 November at Souths Leagues Club, West End. Dr Jackie Huggins AM delivered the keynote speech at the event, and eloquently highlighted the importance of the consultations for the Path to Treaty - which are currently taking place across Queensland.

 

Transcript

QCOSS Board Chair Matt Gardiner

So by way of introduction, Dr. Jackie Huggins AM - and I looked up as a fellow of the Academy of humanities, Jackie's recognised as one of the 600 most influential leaders in the humanities in Australia.

Jackie's a Bidjara and Birri-Gubba Juru woman from Queensland. Jackie's a celebrated historian and author who's documented the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the decades. She's the former co-chair of the National Congress congress of Australia's first peoples reconciliation, reconciliation Australia, and is currently the co chair of the eminent persons panel of Path to Treaty in Queensland. In 2001, Jackie received a Member of the Order of Australia for services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout history her career spanning over four decades Jackie's played a leading role in reconciliation, in literacy, women's issues and social justice. I want to thank you so much for joining us today, Jackie.

Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA

Thanks very much. I've got a bit of a frog in my throat. So that's why the waters there but look.

Seriously, thank you very much, everybody for having me here. Of course it's always my, my duty to and my pleasure to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose land we stand. That's the Jagera and Turrbal peoples and having lived here for over 60 years now, I'm a historical owner in many, many senses. But my work has been very much in the national scene. And I've just came home to roost here and was tapped on the shoulder to do the treaty, the treaty business.

I want to acknowledge your organisation too, QCOSS, of which, believe it or not, I've had many years of knowing about your organisation. One of my good friends was Karen Struthers back in the day. And many of you will remember know, Karen, and she told me about your organisation and what it was and it certainly is something that, the sorts of issues I guess, I believe in as well as, an Aboriginal woman in this country. I have worked with Kathy Goldy. 

Very, very closely in ACOSS, and on many occasions, through my previous role as the co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples. We have similar issues, and we were great partners within that. 

Unfortunately, June last year, we run out of money from Congress, we was the peak of the peak organisations - the peak of the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander organisations. We got defunded in 2014 by the Abbott government, and we never fully recovered really after that. 

So, unfortunately, or fortunately, I come back now to work within this context of treaty in Queensland. I'll just get my little notes to, to work here... 

So, pleasure to be here. And to tell you about Path to Treaty. This is a commitment from the Queensland Government to begin the journey towards negotiated treaties with Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people here in Queensland. And the Path to Treaty will ensure that the voices of all Queenslanders are heard in the treaty conversation, and will benefit all by promoting reconciliation and a shared project in culture and heritage.

When we talk about treaties, we know that in other countries, treaties have been forged. However, here in Australia, none have ever been said - have been forged in places like United States, New Zealand and in Canada. The British Crown, as I say, is yet to look at a treaty with its indigenous inhabitants here. 

Right across the country - we know that Victoria I guess is the most established. In terms of treaty, they're kind of like into the phase four, which - phase three or four - and Queensland has this blank page, ground zero that we're working from. 

The Treaty Commissioner Jill Gallagher came to address our eminent panel in the early days to tell us some of the pitfalls - the highs and lows of getting treaty so far down the track. So they've set up an Aboriginal representative body, or in the process of doing that, to work with the Victorian Government to develop and to agree to negotiate a treaty framework in the Northern Territory.

Mick Dodson has been appointed as an independent Treaty Commissioner, to lead the consultations with Aboriginal people to develop their framework for negotiations. And that role is supported by legislation. In British Columbia, in Canada, there is an established treaty framework for modern treaty processes. And British Columbia also has an independent treaty commission, which facilitates treaty negotiations in British Columbia. And we using some of that as part of our work.

Now we've been set up as two groups, but working together very closely. We have an eminent panel which has been a pointed to to be the public face of the of the Treaty Negotiations. And it's myself - we're all Queenslanders, we'll come home, certainly for this for this project. The Honourable Michael Lavarch who many of you know was Attorney General in the Keating government, and the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce. 

Both she and I are the patrons of Reconciliation Queensland in our state. Josephine Bourne, who is a Torres Strait Islander young woman - she's an academic and she's grown up in Townsville. Of course there's Kerry O'Brien who needs no introduction. Kerry has accompanied us on a consultation to Townsville and I think he quite enjoyed that. Mick Gooda, ex Social Justice Commissioner, and for all the rugby union fans who who might know him, Mr. Dan Crowley. Most of our mob don't because they like Rugby League. However, Dan's accompanied us to Mount Isa last week.

And that treaty working - and also we are very blessed to have a fabulous bunch of people who are members with technical skills, cultural competency, experience and commitment to support the treaty - to the Path to Treaty process, and that is one of your very own - Kate Tully is sitting here. Kate's joined us in that - in that venture. And Kate, and I and Dan actually were in - and actually Shane Hoffman as well - we were in Mount Isa last week too. 

We had a fabulous consultation with those people. I was very delighted because all the women were very dominant. You know, unlike those other meetings, unlike those other meetings, unfortunately, you know, we need to kind of size them up a bit more, but the women were very vocal within that. And Kate will tell you. Also in the working group, Kate is one of two non-indigenous people that we have on that working group, the other is Charmaine Foley, who spent a long time in reconciliation work here in Queensland to drive that. 

So we've commenced our consultations - have 26 meetings - we've had five so far. The teams off to - no that's been cancelled - they that we're going to go to Woorabinda into and - and yes, they're off to Mackay. They were going to go to Woorabinda and Rocky, but they've had a significant death and sorry business in the community so they're unable to do that.

So we've had five consultations. The teams' work overlap sometimes, and we have these face-to-face community consultations, which are facilitated by the treaty working group members, and they will take place from Birdsville to the Gold Coast. 

So we're covering a very, very huge, huge part of our state. And as you know, as you know, this is a very large state, in fact, to get around with. They're asking questions like, "what does the treaty mean to you?" A treaty, as we know, is a negotiated agreement between two or more parties or a negotiated agreement between two sovereign entities. And of course issues of sovereignty have have come up very largely.

What does that mean - our people, of course have never ceded sovereignty in this country. And I was used to be reminded of a quote that a man in Victoria said, when we were referred to as the original owners of the country. And he said, well where's the bill of sale? Where is that bill of sale? And I think treaty now can go towards that bill of sale, in terms of really defining our relationships and walking along a path that is so long overdue - something that needs to be done, to heal the past, but also to right the wrongs in our country. 

And as we all know, there is a deep wound that still inflicts all of us in terms of our relationship. So this is one of the ways we feel that treaties and treaty can be talked about at least. I was very buoyed by Kerry O'Brien - anybody hear his Logie Speech? Where he said, 'The Uluru Statement from the Heart is something that - what's the big deal about it?' You know, it will cost us nothing. It will give us everything morally. Why can't we just give that one the tick, not the flick. But unfortunately, we're also we're not working within a vacuum. We are looking at issues like that. The voice also, which is, which is something that's been talked up in our state, as well. So there's a bit of a consultation fatigue out there for our people in terms of what they wish to see.

We're asking them about who needs to be involved in the treaty process and I'd like to talk to you a little bit about that later, perhaps in in question time. And what would you like to see in a treaty? Other issues we would need to consider. After this, this consultation process does not commit the Queensland Government to any particular course of action or policy, but it signals the beginning of a long overdue journey that we will be taking together as a state. 

And consistent with the principles of self determination, the Queensland Government will not be to be determining who our treaty is to be negotiated with, or what it will be about. Instead, this will be largely drawn from the consultations and the conversations that we are having through the public process. 

Now following the consultation process, the treaty working group will provide advice to the eminent panel, who then will provide advice to Jackie Trad, the minister. We hope that the recommendations and the advice that we provide will be reflective of what, and informed of course, by what the community tells us. 

Just quickly, just want to tell you about about some of the consults, some of the stuff that has come out largely. I think for me - the two issues that I have seen flagged, I've been to three consultations now, have been around the very divisive, Native Title issues that affect our communities. And the other one is racism - systemic and personal. This racism can really immobilise people from even, you know, getting through a situation, but it is still alive and well, and we know that. And certainly in parts of, in Mount Isa where we saw the the industries around mining and pastoralists, we've heard some stories that still keep our attempt to keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at bay around that. 

There are other socialist issues particularly around service delivery. Service delivery as we say, a treaty can negotiate those things. You know, people can be - it's a very self determining exercise that treaties can be negotiated through the kind of service delivery. And we've seen this in British Columbia and other places where they do have treaty. 

Not many people have a really in depth knowledge. There are some people even around this country that are treaty ready to go. And there are places where we have regional authorities and the Ngarrindjeri people in South Australia have a process by which they they self govern in a very real way.

The Torres Strait - the closest thing I guess to Queensland would be the Torres Strait Regional Authority in the Torres Strait that has their own governance mechanisms. 

So, we found that, definitely - and also on our working group, we have young members - as I say anyone under 60. Only joking - no, we have, we have a couple in their 30s. And that's fine. It's a pretty tough ask, you know, having real babies come to the come to the fore, but, we've been told absolutely. And we've been told by the community that young people are the ones who are going to be driving this. Treaty is something that doesn't happen overnight. This is long term for all of us. 

And I've got to stop getting over say, I don't know that I'll be here when we see a treaty. People have told me no, don't say that, you know, you're gonna live to 110 or something. But that this is a long process. So we're trying to build in those steps whereby young people have a say in the process, but also respecting what the elders have done, and how - what has gone on before them. 

For decades, our people been crying out and saying, issues - wanting a treaty. And hopefully this will be one of the ways in which we can deliver that. But this is the beginning. This is the process. And we open up to, to the community to allow us to do that. But please remember this is a process for all Queenslanders. I must say I've been very disappointed that we haven't had too many white fellas in the audience that we have - we visited, so there's a big one coming up here in Brisbane. 

Most of you from Brisbane, is that right? Or in your regional centres - please go to the DATSIP.gov.au website and you'll get the consultations within that. 

So, look I might leave it there and open the floor for questions from that. Thank you - I just want to thank of course Mark for getting me out of bed this morning. No only joking. 

Now poor Mark, I scared him because I rang him up and I said, "Mark, I'm sorry". And he goes, 'oh, no'. And I said, no I just want to know where is this place again? Because we - when you're running around doing stuff, I buried the email in my in my phone so - Mark, sorry about doing that. But yeah, I made it. I'm here. Yeah. Glad to be here. 

I've got another 10 one to deliver to policy people. So yeah, very happy to answer questions.

 

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