Blak Greens leading our party to Truth, Treaty and Voice


We all have more work to do to decolonise our parliaments and our party.  This month, we made significant progress on the Australian Greens’ journey to centring First Nations voices.

By Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng and Senator Lidia Thorpe

Our recent Australian Greens National Conference was a significant moment for the Greens on our party’s journey of decolonising and centring First Nations voices.

At the Conference, The Australian Greens First Nations Network (AGFNN) led Talking Circles on both days to bring members together and discuss the ideas and vision the First Nations Network brought to the party for consideration.

The intention of the Talking Circles at Conference is to share First Nations knowledge, engage in dialogue and discuss issues of importance for First Nations peoples and those who are members of the Australian Greens. 

We undertake these Circles in our cultural traditions facilitating yarning and sharing our traditions, laws and protocols so that non-First Nations members learn more deeply about our culture, listen to the voices of their First Nations members and share in an authentic and integral dialogue that allows us all to appreciate the process of caring and sharing, and respect across the cultural divide.

In this way, it is healing and builds on our shared voices to strengthen each other and the party in our ways of knowing, being and doing together in the world of politics. Our party deeply respects that our sovereignty has never been ceded and that our ways of being in the party are part of our self-determination and their allowing that self-determination in action.

At our Talking Circles, we had questions about the Uluru Statement from the Heart from members, and we had a good discussion about its history and place. The Greens support the Statement from the Heart.

We have always supported Truth, Treaty and Voice, and our newly adopted policy continues to back these three elements just as we always have. Our view is that the timing and sequence of these actions matter.

Elevating Black voices

The First Nations Network presented a renewed policy that was endorsed by our party. The Greens First Nations Network policy has been discussed, workshopped and reviewed by members in a thorough member-led process, listening to the voices of grassroots activists, community groups, individuals and Elders. 

The Network is set up to work with members in each State and Territory engaging regularly with their own communities to hear their voices and bring back those voices to our policy-making process. As grassroots people from our own communities, we feel that this is the most important process of work within the party: to bring the grassroots First Nations voice to the party processes at the highest level.

Our policy is based on the principles of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, and it sets out core priorities of Truth, Treaty, and Voice, as well as specific measures and issues that must be pursued in this country if we are to see justice for our First Peoples.

At our recent Australian Greens National Conference the network secured a vote to ensure we have four delegates to future National Conferences, to engage in decision-making and work at the national level within the Australian Greens.

As Blak Greens members, we are proud of our party’s grassroots democratic processes that have led to these outcomes.

Aboriginal people in this country have suffered countless injustices, but all those injustices start from one single event. And that event was the invasion of this country.

Until that first injustice is resolved, none of the other injustices can be properly addressed. Resolving this means negotiating and enacting a Treaty or Treaties in this country, sovereign to sovereign.

As such, our policy affirms that Treaty and truth-telling are foundational processes to make sure any changes in the constitution are meaningful and not just tokenistic. A ‘Treaty first’ approach is essential to ensure that sovereignty is recognised.

A long way to go

Australia is the only Commonwealth country without a Treaty with its First People. Once you have a Treaty, you have a platform to bring peace to this country, and it will make it easier to meaningfully resolve issues like constitutional recognition and a voice to parliament. Reforms on crucial areas like raising the age of criminal responsibility and tackling deaths in custody must also proceed urgently, but unless there is also a Treaty and the truthful recognition of First Nations’ sovereignty and violent dispossession, there will be no real resolution of the underlying problems. 

We understand some within the First Nations community will be pushing for ‘Voice’ to come first, and we’re not going to stand in the way of any genuine reform, but we also see the Morrison Government watering down the idea of voice, saying it will only be voice to government, not to Parliament. And we don’t think it likely that any meaningful constitutional recognition proposition will be put to a referendum under this government. We’re not going to let Treaty negotiations be put on hold by Scott Morrison’s delaying tactics – Treaty discussions need to commence urgently.

If constitutional recognition proceeds without Treaty discussions being advanced, it in fact makes recognition less likely to succeed. We know how difficult it is to get constitutional reform in this country. Any reform process needs to have grassroots support if it’s going to stick. Having constitutional recognition discussed as part of the grassroots treaty discussion process would make it more likely to succeed.

There are different views in the First Nations community about how to achieve justice in this country, and we respect those different views. Within the Australian Greens, our First Nations Network strongly believes that moves towards Treaty must come first. That’s the position our MPs in parliament will strongly advance, especially as Scott Morrison tries to delay the recognition process.

The First Nations Network will continue our policy review work leading into future Conferences, and we’ll contribute to our party’s election platform development and candidate support, leading into the 2021/22 federal election.

We all have more work to do to decolonise our parliaments and our party – let's keep talking and working together.

Dr Tjanara Goreng Goreng PhD is a Wakka Wakka woman and the Interim Secretary of the Australian Greens First Nations Network (AGFNN).

Senator Lidia Thorpe is a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman, Senator for Victoria, and the Greens First Nations spokesperson.

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