In brief

First truth commission in Australia on “injustices committed” against Indigenous peoples announced

State of Victoria says it wants to lay groundwork for “real, lasting change” · Aboriginals demand their voices be heard this time

Geraldine Atkinson, co-chair of the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria.
Geraldine Atkinson, co-chair of the First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria. Author: First Peoples\' Assembly of Victoria
The Victoria government and the Assembly of First Peoples of this Australian state have announced the opening of the first Indigenous-related truth and justice commission in the history of the island-continent, which will investigate “historical and ongoing injustices committed” against Aboriginal Victorians.

The commission will consist of five people, three of whom will be Indigenous. Work is expected to begin in July and will last until 2024 at least.

The commission’s investigation will cover “all areas of social, political, cultural and economic life” since the beginning of British colonization, according to the joint statement. The goal is to lay the groundwork for “real and lasting change.”

Aboriginal representatives have called on the rest of society to take the opportunity to hear the voices of the Indigenous peoples of the island-continent. First Nations’ Assembly co-chair Geraldine Atkinson says that explaining the “traumas” of colonial history, including “massacres and genocide”, will help the “wider society understand the impacts” that this has had on Aboriginal peoples.

Indigenous Australians suffer from worse socio-economic and health conditions than the rest of the population. They also do not have their own institutions of self-government.

Since 2016, the Aboriginal peoples of Victoria and the state government have been following a process that should eventually lead to the signing of a treaty that redefines relations between the two actors.

Victoria has a population of 6.6 million, of whom only 0.8% (about 48,000 people) identified themselves as Indigenous Australians in the 2016 census —the lowest share of all Australian states.