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Time for truth-telling in lutruwita

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A Palawa woman has called upon Tasmania to come together and establish a framework for the advancement of treaty in the state.

Speaking at the annual Japanangka Errol West Memorial Lecture at the University of Tasmania, Professor Maggie Walter said there needs to be a Commissioner’s Truth, Treaty, Voice and Support Office established to work with Palawa and the State to establish the necessary infrastructure and collaborations.

Professor Walter is an Emerita Distinguished Professor of Sociology with the University of Tasmania and Commissioner of the Victorian Yoorook Justice Commission.

“We need to develop formal pathways for traditional owner groups to form and exercise their rights over their country,” she said.

Professor Maggie Walter
Distinguished Professor Maggie Walter

We need to develop the terms of reference for a Truth-Telling Commission and these need to be broad enough to allow full telling of the truth of Lutruwita from 1788 to the present.

“The remit is large, but it needs to be; halfway measures won’t do.

“The state needs to deliver enabling legislation for treaty, truth and voice. It needs to be done in concert with Palawa, especially the officer of the commission to enact this enabling legislation.”

Drawing on what has happened in Victoria, Professor Walter said the establishment of such a commission will require a multi-faceted program of high level work to achieve success.

“Truth-telling and treaty need to run in tandem,” she said.

“Treaty is primarily between Palawa and the state and this relationship will be inherently political and at times conflictual and confrontational.

Treaty processes need to be independent of truth telling and vice versa so that negotiation to treaty can be pursued rigorously without compromising the truth telling process or its outcomes, or its findings.

“Truth-telling processes provide the evidence to establish the truth and the pathway to justice from truth. The treaty process is primarily the vehicle for obtaining that justice.”

The Uluru Statement from the Heart, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has committed to in full, calls for truth, treaty and voice to all for a fairer and more truthful relationship between First Peoples and other Australians. The relationship is the base for a better future for the next generation based on self-determination and justice.

Distinguished Professor Maggie Walter delivers the 2022 Japanangka Errol West lecture about truth-telling and silence in Lutruwita.

Professor Walter said the position Tasmania takes going forward is of the utmost importance.

“Make no mistake, the consequences of whether or not we as a state have the courage to begin the formal public reckoning with the truth of colonisation, or whether we grab for the comfort of continued silence, will impact all with the cost not just borne by Palawa,” she said.

“It is only when we get truth-telling that I think this island, Lutruwita, will truly be home for all of us.”

About Errol West

The Japanangka Errol West Memorial Lecture honours the life and work of the late poet and scholar.

Japanangka Errol was a leading Tasmanian Aboriginal academic, the initiator of Aboriginal Studies within higher education in Tasmania. He was known for his scholarship in the field of Indigenous methodologies and pedagogies. His PhD thesis articulated the Japanangka, Australian Aboriginal teaching and research paradigm, a paradigm which was based on knowledge entrusted to him by Walpiri Elder Japanangka Rex Granites.

Professor Walter’s lecture can be viewed in full at YouTube