Victoria’s first Aboriginal senator wants treaty rights for first Australians

By Aroha Awarau

Lidia Thorpe, Victoria’s first Aboriginal senator, wants a treaty between the Crown and her mob (a group of Aboriginal people associated with a particular place or country).

She believes a treaty will bring greater peace for Aboriginal mobs in Australia.

“We want to prosper as everyone seems to do in our own country,” Lidia Thorpe says.

But she admits, some people are yet to be convinced.

“There are Aboriginal mobs who don’t agree with going down a treaty path,” Senator Thorpe says.

She says some of her people would rather have parliamentary representation than a treaty process. That group has been the most vocal opponent of a treaty.

“There are diverse views, which is normal,” she says.

Australia's identity crisis

“We actually think differently. We have so many different languages and mobs around the country.”

She believes an education campaign would help Aboriginal people learn about what a treaty could do for them. They could then make an informed decision.

Thorpe is Victoria’s first Aboriginal senator. She is a Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman with the Australia Greens Party. In 2017, she was the first Aboriginal MP in Victoria state. She was made state senator this year.

But after almost three years in the state legislature, she’s not convinced that parliamentary representation is the best solution for her people.

Whereas the Teaty of Waitangi was made to establish British governance and law in Aotearoa, the primary goal of this treaty will be, in Thorpe’s view, to bring peace between Aboriginal mobs and Australian settlers.

“We want peace,” Thorpe says.

“We want to be able to live our lives without being under constant attack from government policy and government agenda.”

The new senator says that her country has an identity crisis. She says that her people are the oldest continuous living culture in the world, yet Aboriginal culture is not in the Australian mainstream.