Aboriginal timeline: Treaty

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  1. The use of the term "treaty" ignites much public interest, and Mr Hawke remarks, "It's not the word that's important, its the attitudes of the peoples, attitudes of the non-Aboriginal Australians and of the Aboriginal Australians if there is a sense of reconciliation... whether you say there's a treaty or a compact is not important, but it is important that we do it."


  1. Support for a treaty is not unanimous, but wide political support continues for reconciliation. Through 1990 and 1991, cross-party support develops for a formal process of reconciliation to be led by a council of prominent Australians, and the government establishes the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation on 2 September 1991.


  1. Yothu Yindi release their song Treaty, which combines balanda (non-Aboriginal) and Yolngu lyrics together and is a political response to the Hawke government’s broken promise of a treaty between Aboriginal people and the Australian government by 1990. Treaty peaks at no 11 on the Australian single chart and internationally at no 6 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play singles chart. It quickly becomes a timeless protest song in the campaign for Aboriginal rights reform and remains one of Australia's most iconic rock songs.


  1. The idea of a 'document of reconciliation' develops as a way to deal with the sensitivities and differences of view which existed about a treaty. Other terms which could be used instead of 'document of reconciliation' could be settlement, compact, covenant or declaration, or an Aboriginal word, such as Makarrata, which has an appropriate meaning.

  2. Prime Minister John Howard vehemently opposes a treaty, instead insisting on non-binding recognition: "I hope we have some kind of written understanding. I don't like the idea of a treaty because it implies that we are two nations. We are not, we are one nation. We are all Australians before anything else, one indivisible nation.

    "But I would certainly be in favour of a document that recognises the prior occupation of this country by the indigenous people, recognising their place as part of the Australian community and their right to preserve their distinctive culture. But within the notion of one undivided united Australian community where our first and foremost allegiance is to Australia and nothing else."


  1. A poll finds 53% of Australians favoured a treaty, with 34% opposed.

  2. The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation identifies a treaty as the unfinished business of the reconciliation process and recommends “that the Commonwealth Parliament enact legislation... to put in place a process which will unite all Australians by way of an agreement, or treaty, through which unresolved issues of reconciliation can be resolved.”

  3. Prime Minister John Howard rejects a treaty noting a "nation … does not make a treaty with itself".


  1. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination releases its Concluding Observations following a review of Australia’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Among other things the committee recommends that the government "consider the negotiation of a treaty agreement to build a constructive and sustained relationship with Indigenous peoples".


  1. In response to the NT intervention, leaders in East Arnhem Land found the Yolngu Nations Assembly (Yolŋu Makarr Dhuni) in Galiwinku to resource practical work toward a treaty for Arnhem Land by facilitating engagement between the Aboriginal Maḏayin form of tribal government and the Westminster forms of governments.


  1. Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren Mundine, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott both express their interest in a treaty. Rather than make a single treaty between the federal government and Australia’s Aboriginal people in general, they suggest individual treaties with each nation or language group.

    [In a]ll of Arnhem Land, we still maintain our law, maintain our language and have our land. We have not been conquered. We need our society recognised.

    — Djiniyini Goṉḏarra, Yolngu Nations Assembly spokesperson
  2. Freedom Summit at the Old Telegraph outside of Mparntwe (Alice Springs) which leads to the formation of the Freedom Movement which aims to talk about, define and agree on a treaty. "A Treaty from the people – a salt of the earth, grass-roots document that respects the First Peoples, that is of, and by, the First Peoples of this continent."


  1. From 26–27 May the first forums with the Victorian government discuss treaty with more than 400 participants.

  2. A meeting of 500 Aboriginal leaders in Victoria rejects constitutional recognition and passes a motion demanding that the state “resources a treaty process, including a framework for treaties, with complete collaboration with all Sovereign Peoples and Nations”.

  3. The Victorian government commits to begin talks to work out Australia's first treaty with Aboriginal people. The treaty aims for

    • Recognition of past injustices
    • Recognition of all 39 First Nations and their clans authority
    • Recognition of and respect for country, traditions and customs
    • A futures fund to implement and establish the treaty
    • Establishment of a democratic treaty commission
    • Land rights and land acquisition legislation and funding
    • Fresh water and sea water rights
  4. Campaign poster of Yingiya Mark Guyulu advocating a treaty.
    Yingiya Mark Guyulu's campaign poster as an independent candidate for the 2016 NT Legislative Assembly election.

    The Yolgnu Nations Assembly selects Yingiya Mark Guyulu as an independent candidate to run for the 26 August NT Legislative Assembly elections. He strongly advocated a treaty with the government.

  5. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announces that he believes a formal treaty would undermine the campaign towards constitutional recognition. Meanwhile opposition leader Bill Shorten says he is 'up for the conversation on a treaty'.

  6. The Western Australian government recognises the Noongar people formally through the Noongar (Koorah, Nitja, Boordahwan) (Past, Present, Future) Recognition Act 2016 of the WA Parliament as the traditional custodians of the south west region of Western Australia. The government "recognises the Noongar peoples' important relationship with the Noongar lands, and their significant and unique contribution to the heritage, cultural identity, community and economy of WA". The recognition is part of Australia's most comprehensive native title agreement, the South West Native Title Settlement (see June 2015) and the first statute in WA to incorporate a First Nation's language (in its Noongar Recognition Statement).

  7. The Victorian government commences the Treaty Interim Working Group to "provide advice on the process and timing for treaty, guidance on community engagement and examining options for a permanent Victorian Aboriginal representative body". It has 5 Aboriginal representatives and 6 people appointed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

  8. Yingiya Mark Guyula wins the Northern Territory seat of Nhulunbuy with 1,648 votes, a lead of just eight votes to incumbent Lynne Walker (ALP) who received 1,640 votes. The seat had been held by the ALP since 1980 and was categorised as “Very Safe Labor”.


View article sources (8)

[1] 'Race Discrimination: UN Committee Releases Report and Recommendations on Australia', Human Rights Law Centre 27/8/2010, hrlc.org.au/race-discrimination-un-committee-releases-report-and-recommendations-on-australia-28-august-2010, retrieved 17/3/2015
[2] 'Indigenous Treaties', Yolngu Nations Assembly media statement 30/1/2014
[3] Freedom Movement SA, Media Release, 7/9/2015
[4] Sydney Public Forum on the Need for Treaty, press release, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney, 10/3/2016
[5] 'Victorian Government to begin talks with First Nations on Australia's first Indigenous treaty', ABC News 26/2/2016
[6] 'South West Native Title Settlement - Noongar recognition through an Act of Parliament', Western Australian government 18/4/2019
[7] The full text of the Act is available at www.legislation.wa.gov.au/legislation/statutes.nsf/main_mrtitle_13755_homepage.html
[8] 'Aboriginal Victorians Talk Treaty', Minister for Aboriginal Affairs 18/7/2016

Cite this page

Korff, J 2024, Aboriginal timeline: Treaty, <https://stage.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/treaty?page=2>, retrieved 19 June 2024

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