Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have long explained that the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians can only be improved through a comprehensive process of truth-telling. In 2021, the Victorian government responded to these calls by establishing the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. Designed in partnership with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the Commission is Australia’s first formal truth-telling process.
This Case outlines the history and structure of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission and its connection to the broader issues of recognition of Indigenous Peoples such as a Treaty and the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Truth commissions can be valuable mechanisms to develop a shared understanding of the historic and contemporary injustices perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since the start of colonisation. Enhancing awareness and recognition among non-Indigenous Australians may also be key to generating legal and political reform that will lead to a more equitable future.
For this to occur two lessons should be borne in mind. First, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must take a leading role in the development and design of any truth-telling process. Second, truth-telling processes cannot by themselves lead to reform. Governments should demonstrate their commitment to transform the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by embedding a truth commission in a larger process of political and legal reform, such as that outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission in Victoria has emerged organically out of the State’s treaty process. This improves the likelihood that any recommendations will be acted upon.
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