Aboriginal timeline: Treaty

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  1. The newly elect NT Labour government announces that an Aboriginal Voice – Shared Future subcommittee, which will include all Aboriginal MPs and representatives of bush seats, will progress public discussion on a treaty.

  2. The SA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, Kyam Maher, announces that the government commits $4.4 million over 5 years towards the establishment of up to 40 treaties across South Australia. This commitment to individualised treaties for Aboriginal communities is different to Victoria's plans for a statewide treaty. The investment also funds the appointment of an independent commissioner for treaty.

    Treaty is an important step towards addressing the wrongs of the past. The fact that so many Aboriginal people to this day face such significant disadvantage remains the greatest stain on our society.

    — Kyam Maher, South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation


  1. 16 Aboriginal nations from across the northern Murray-Darling Basin sign a treaty between themselves, known as the Union of Sovereign First Nations of the Northern Murray-Darling Basin, to have a united voice on Aboriginal issues and more bargaining power and economic opportunities.

  2. Aboriginal leaders from across Australia gather at Uluru from 23–26 May to identify amendments required for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people, culminating in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. This is probably the first time that Aboriginal people presented a united position and a single key recommendation.

  3. Despite more than 60% of Australians supporting the Referendum Council's call for a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rejects it because it is neither “desirable or capable of winning acceptance at referendum”.


  1. The South Australian government signs the Buthera Agreement, a formal agreement with the people of the Narungga nation (Yorke Peninsula), believed to be a first step towards a state based treaty. The agreement commits both parties to negotiate for treaty over the next three years and includes a commitment from the government to provide support to Narungga people in economic and community development work. The name comes from the Narungga Dreaming of Buthera, a giant man demonstrating his strength, resilience and passion towards his people.

  2. The newly elected Liberal government under Steven Marshall in South Australia stops the state’s treaty process. The SA treaty process had advanced to the signatory stage and had funding allocated to it by the previous Labor government.

  3. During a visit of His Royal Highness Prince Charles a delegation of Yolŋu clan leaders lead by politician Yingiya Mark Guyula present a ‘Letter Stick’ expressing their fight for sovereignty and asking for support. It read:

    "This here is Yolngu Land, we are sovereign people and we live by Yolngu law. We have many difficulties with the Australian Governments because they do not recognise our sovereignty. We need to correct this situation, for the sake of our children and their children, for our cultural survival, – for our ancestors. We are the oldest living culture in the world. I request, on behalf of the people standing before you, and the Yolngu nations that you intervene on our behalf and take a strong position to acknowledge our sovereignty and promote a pathway to Treaty. We are the only indigenous people of a Commonwealth country that does not have the respect or dignity of a Treaty with our people. Will you advocate on our behalf for our justice? Please accept this letter stick and create a diplomatic passage for this letter stick from your highly respected position to the Prime Minister of Australia, in order to help our sovereign nations reach Treaty.”

  4. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visits Nhulunbuy, in north-east Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, for his first visit to the remote region. He meets with members of the Yolngu Nations Assembly and local politician Yingiya Mark Guyula who present His Royal Highness with a ‘Letter Stick’ that expressed their sovereignty and requested the Price “to acknowledge our sovereignty and promote a pathway to Treaty”. [5]

  5. The lower house of the Victorian government passes the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018 to create the framework for the treaty process. It is the first time legislation committing to treaty negotiations has ever been considered by an Australian parliament. The framework will establish an Aboriginal representative body which in turn will help establish the process for the negotiation of a treaty, or treaties, between Aboriginal people and the state of Victoria.

  6. The Northern Territory government signs a memorandum of understanding (a pledge to work towards a treaty) with all four Aboriginal Land Councils in the Northern Territory, pledging to work towards a treaty. Chief Minister Michael Gunner says his government is ready to negotiate a "Northern Territory Treaty" without Commonwealth involvement. After the appointment of a treaty commissioner, consultations determine the level of interest in a treaty amongst Aboriginal Territorians. This is the first time the NT government and land councils have agreed to work together in this way, and the first time in decades that the four big land councils – the Northern, Central, Anindilyakwa and Tiwi – have joined together in consensus.

    At the pace communities are comfortable, the government is ceding decision-making power back to where it belongs – the communities.

    — Michael Gunner, chief minister of the territory
  7. The Northern Territory government and all four of the NT’s Aboriginal land councils sign a historic agreement to begin treaty talks. The Barunga agreement commits the all parties to a 3-year process to consult all Territorians to “develop a process to negotiate a Northern Territory treaty” with the aim “to achieve real change and substantive, long-term benefits for Aboriginal people”.

  8. The Victorian parliament passes the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018, Australia’s first ever treaty law. It outlines future elements to support treaty negotiations (e.g. a treaty authority and negotiation framework), a mechanism to recognise a representative body, guiding principles for the treaty process and reporting obligations.


  1. Mick Dodson starts as the inaugural NT treaty commissioner. He will lead treaty negotiations between Aboriginal people and the NT government and present a final report within 2.5 years. His appointment is supported by all four NT land councils and the minister for Aboriginal affairs.

  2. Victoria sets up the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, an independent body that will be the voice of Aboriginal people in Victoria in the future treaty process and tasked to negotiate a framework for a treaty. It is a not-for-profit company with 33 elected representatives from 5 voting areas (four in regional Victoria and the fifth in metropolitan Melbourne) and 12 nominated representatives, one from each of the 12 formally recognised traditional owner groups in the state.

  3. The Queensland government launches the “Tracks to Treaty” commitment, aimed to give Aboriginal communities greater self-determination and better delivery of services, lift the representation of Aboriginal voices to government, and begin work on negotiating one or more treaties to create a positive shared future.

    [Tracks to Treaty is about] understanding our past, our shared history… but also telling the truth in all of that, and ensuring that truth then lays the path for the future generations.

    — Leeanne Enoch, Environment Minister and Quandamooka woman
  4. The Queensland government appoints an 'Eminent Panel' of high profile First Nations and non-Indigenous Queenslanders, supported by a Treaty Working Group, to guide conversations between all Queenslanders about what a treaty might mean to them and how it can look like. The Panel presents its recommendations in February 2020.

  5. Voting opens for representatives to the First Peoples’ Assembly in Victoria, which will help determine the framework for a treaty. More than 30,000 Victorian Aboriginal people are eligible to vote for 73 leaders until 20 October. It is the first time Aboriginal people have ever been able to vote for such an assembly.

    We cannot underestimate that power the assembly will give to that [treaty] negotiating. For the first time, we have an elected voice in Victoria.

    — Jill Gallagher, treaty advancement commissioner
  6. The first of 26 statewide public consultation sessions about a treaty with Aboriginal people in Queensland is held in Cairns. The sessions invite Queenslanders to have a say about treaty, share what it means to them, and what a treaty could look like.

  7. The First People's Assembly of Victoria holds its inaugural meeting in the Victorian Parliament. The Assembly sets up six committees: Cultural Governance, Elders’ Voice, Self-Determination Fund, Treaty Authority and Interim Dispute Resolution Process, Treaty Negotiation Framework, and Truth-telling.


View article sources (11)

[1] 'SA set for Indigenous treaty talks', NITV News 14/12/2016
[2] 'Indigenous voice proposal 'not desirable', says Turnbull', The Guardian Australia 26/10/2017
[3] 'SA Government Signs Buthera Agreement With Narungga Nation', South Australian Native Title Services, undated, available at www.nativetitlesa.org/sa-government-signs-buthera-agreement-with-narungga-nation/
[4] 'Yolŋu Leader Gives Prince Charles A Treaty Letter Stick… And A Diplomatic ‘Middle Finger’', New Matilda 9/4/2018
[5] 'Victorian lower house passes treaty legislation after Greens accept Labor deal', The Guardian 7/6/2018
[6] 'Aboriginal treaty with Northern Territory one step closer with historic signing', ABC News 7/6/2018
[7] 'NT signs historic Barunga agreement to begin Indigenous treaty talks', The Guardian 8/6/2018
[8] 'Historic Northern Territory treaty agreement means 'the old way is finished'', The Guardian 9/6/2018
[9] 'NT signs historic Barunga agreement to begin Indigenous treaty talks', The Guardian 8/6/2018
[10] 'Queensland launches path to treaty with state's Indigenous people', The Guardian 14/7/2019
[11] [11a] 'Voting opens for representatives to Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly', The Guardian 16/9/2019

Cite this page

Korff, J 2024, Aboriginal timeline: Treaty, <https://stage.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/treaty?page=3>, retrieved 19 June 2024

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