Australia’s first Aboriginal-led truth-telling process has appointed its five commissioners tasked with investigating the historical and ongoing injustices committed against Aboriginal Victorians since colonisation.
Established by the Victorian Government and The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will will begin in July and will run for three years, delivering an interim report in June 2022 and a final report in June 2024.
Areas of injustice to be explored include cultural violations and massacres, policing and criminal justice, child protection, family and welfare matters, health and healthcare as well as other areas of economic, social and political life.
Chair of the Commission, Wergaia/Wamba Wamba Elder, Professor Eleanor Bourke will lead the process – bringing with her decades of outstanding leadership and tireless dedication to advancing Aboriginal education and cultural heritage.
“The important and historic work of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will be a step towards creating future generations of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians who can benefit from a truthful education about our State,” Professor Bourke said.
Aunty Eleanor Bourke is joined by Commissioners:
- Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung Elder and Traditional Owner Dr Wayne Atkinson who brings expertise in human rights, land justice, cultural heritage, and Koori oral history programs.
- Palawa woman Professor Maggie Walter who is a distinguished Professor of Sociology, and leading expert in systemic disadvantage, inequality and Indigenous Data Sovereignty.
- Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum Wurring woman Sue-Anne Hunter, a social worker and recognised leader in trauma and healing for Mob.
- Former Justice of the Supreme Court Professor Kevin Bill who is the only non-Indigenous commissioner appointed and Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in the Faculty of Law at Monash University.
Sue-Anne Hunter who is based in Melbourne said the five commissioners were selected from 64 applicants who were assessed by a majority-Aboriginal Independent Assessment Panel who used rigorous selection criteria to produce a shortlist of 20 candidates.
She says being a therapist and working in the healing space is what led her to put her name down for the historic commission, plus “being a Traditional Owner, a Wurundjeri woman it was really important that we were able to be part of this historic occasion.”
“It’s a big job, it’s going to be long, it’s going to be hard, there’s going to be stories of tragedy, there’s going to be stories of resilience, and we’re going to learn a lot about our culture. We’ve got so much to look at and its so broad,” Ms Hunter said.
She said for many First Nations people the truth and justice commission will be the first time they are not only listened to but believed.
“One of the biggest things for us is to bring all Victorians along because this is a new narrative for Victoria. We want people’s voices heard, we want people’s voices listened to and probably for the first time believed.”