Home Australia Indigenous elder calls for land tax exemption, free university and interest-free loans as part of upcoming treaty negotiations in Victoria

Indigenous elder calls for land tax exemption, free university and interest-free loans as part of upcoming treaty negotiations in Victoria

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Indigenous elder calls for land tax exemption, free university and interest-free loans as part of upcoming treaty negotiations in Victoria

Hello everyone. I wish to pay my respects to the Traditional Owners of the Lands I speak to you about today.

Wherever we are, we are on Aboriginal land. Land over which sovereignty has never been ceded. I pay my respects to the Elders past and present. And all the people who join us today.

My name is Jill Gallagher. I am a proud Gunditjmara woman.

I am the chief executive of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization or VACCHO, and former Commissioner for the Advancement of the Treaty.

Before I begin, I would like to thank the First People’s Assembly of Victoria for their unwavering leadership and dedication. I would like to pay tribute to co-chairs Ngarra Murray and Rueben Berg for their incredible work.

To the elders here, I would like to thank you. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your resilience.

I’m here to chat about the Treaty and the incredible opportunities the Treaty could bring to our communities.

I wanted to touch on some of that history to paint a small picture of the fierce strength and resilience of our Elders and ancestors who have paved the way for us to be where we are today.

I also wanted to share my opinion on the many vital changes that the Treaty can achieve.

Changes could improve community rights, services, health care and education and amplify the voices of all of us.

Before colonisation, our ancestors walked this country when there was a land bridge between Tasmania and the mainland (30,000 years ago).

Our ancestors witnessed volcanoes erupt (Tower Hill 32,000 years ago) and our people hunted megafauna with stone tools and spears (megafauna became extinct 45,000), but we survived.

Our communities had and still have very complex social structures and also our own traditions that governed our way of life.

Our people knew how to use the environment for our survival, they knew the medicines, our fire and fish farming methods, we knew how to take care of the land so that it would take care of us.

We know this through the stories that are passed down.

We know this thanks to ancient sites like Budj Bim.

And through relics such as Aboriginal stone tools dating back to the last Ice Age found in Cloggs Cave near Buchan on GunaiKurnai lands.

Our ancestors left us their stories in the landscape.

These examples underline the fact that Aboriginal communities were world leaders in research and innovation (we flourished) and lived rich lives with a strong spiritual connection to the land.

However, rapid and brutal colonization significantly affected all facets of Aboriginal culture, including ways of knowing, being and doing.

When our lands were stolen and invaded, our people were left completely and utterly disempowered.

Our people almost did not survive colonization, if it were not for the fierce resistance and activism that existed from the beginning.

Our communities have been fighting for justice for the last 250 years and I just want to mention some of this strong political activism and leadership that has taken place for the advancement of our people.

This is just a small sample of some of the strong promotional activities that have been carried out.

In 1938 ‘January 26’ was declared a Day of Mourning,

In 1957 the first Aboriginal organization was created in Victoria: the Aborigines Advancement League (AAL),

The 1967 referendum in which 90.7% of Australians voted YES to counting indigenous Australians in the census.

In 1972 we set up our own embassy tent opposite Parliament House.

Shortly afterwards, in 1973, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service was created so that our people could have access to basic health services.

In 1993 we had the Native Title Act, and then in

In 2010, Victoria gained the Traditional Owners Settlement Act.

And then, of course, in October 2019, the First Victorian People’s Assembly was introduced as a continuation of all that important activism and leadership.

We are already seeing the strong leadership and hard work of the First People’s Assembly with the establishment of:

  • We have had the dispute resolution process signed,
  • The establishment and the vital truth delivered by Yoorrook.
  • The establishment of the negotiation framework and the self-determination fund, and
  • The establishment and appointment of the Treaty authority.

The treaty has been a long time coming and the work of many, many generations has been necessary to get us to where we are today.

We are about to take the next vital step and begin negotiating treaties.

I would now like to address some of my personal aspirations for the Treaty: what I believe the Treaty can achieve.

The only thing we must remember is that the Treaty is an agreement between sovereign entities.

Make no mistake: the possibilities and potential offered by the Treaty are monumental for our communities.

Here are the ten things I think should be part of a state treaty.


First of all, I want TOs to have all the resources necessary to recover and maintain our languages ​​and our cultures at the local level.

This will require us to establish local cultural learning venues to ensure our mobs are culturally strong and to help educate the wider non-Aboriginal community about who we are.

Aboriginal people should be exempt from land tax (TO) (including stamp duty) and council rates.

Interest-free loans must be provided so that Aboriginal people can buy homes.

In education, Aboriginal people should be exempt from HECS/HELP fees. Tertiary education should be offered to Aboriginal students free of charge.

Aboriginal History – The true history of this country should be taught in all Victorian and Australian schools.

Another thing I want to see as part of the Treaty of Victoria is a Perpetual Infrastructure Fund.

I want to see the establishment of an Aboriginal-specific Productivity Commission in Victoria to hold government and services accountable for better outcomes.

Aboriginal people should be provided with designated seats on local councils.

Finally, the visibility of Aboriginal culture is very important.

If there is one thing that frustrates me more than anything else, it is the lack of visibility of Aboriginal cultures in this state, in this country and in the world.

What do we see when we get off the plane at Tullamarine Airport?


When I return to Australia, I see my culture booed on the football field and ridiculed in the media.

Other countries take pride in their ancient cultures: think Egypt, Greece, and the Incas of Peru. We all learn about them in schools.

But we don’t learn about the ancient and contemporary cultures that live in this country.

The treaty has the power to flip the script and change this.

The treaty will ensure that our 65,000 years of rich culture are once again visible on the landscape of this country.

When we were young, we used to gather food seasonally and all the Mobs used to camp together at night.

It was difficult at times and could be very lonely.

But I remember when we were camping under the stars and I looked toward the horizon, I would see lots of little orange dots glowing in the distance.

These points were bonfires, each representing another family in our mafia.

As a child, I remember being amazed looking at those dots; From a distance they looked like a beautiful dot painting to me.

Looking at these fires I felt tremendous strength because I knew I was surrounded by my culture and my people.

Today, as I stand before you, I am filled with a renewed sense of strength and joy.

I see strong leaders, representing Deadly Mobs from across the state, united in pride.

They should all be proud of all they have achieved and the immense progress they have made in laying the foundations to take Treaty negotiations forward for Aboriginal communities.

Thank you for your strength, thank you for your dedication and thank you for your hard work for the Communities.

We were a very strong and proud cultural people before colonization, and we almost lost everything as a result of colonization.

The treaty is about ensuring this never happens again and ensuring that our culture is maintained for many, many generations to come.

Because our culture is our strength: it is at the very heart of everything we do and everything we are as people.

All families need to feel that connection to the culture and the mafia.

Late last year I was part of a special gathering at Camp Jungai. Crowds from all over Victoria gathered to paint, dance our different cultural dances and listen to music, make up stories and share stories.

It was absolutely deadly.

That is the power of Aboriginal culture, and the Treaty is about uplifting all our cultures.

If we get (no, no, if WHEN) treaties and fulfill our aspirations, we will ensure that our future generations never have to grow up in an environment where their culture is repressed.

They will grow up in an environment where they will be surrounded by its 65,000 years of rich and ancient culture.

The Treaty will secure the future of our next generation.

The Treaty is about the resilience, determination and courage of our Communities to continue moving forward – not just to survive – but to thrive.

Let’s continue to be strong. Let’s continue to be brave. And let us take this opportunity to move forward and forge thriving, culturally rich communities where our Boorai will thrive.

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