The Victorian government has announced a landmark Truth and Justice Royal Commission with the findings to inform the state’s treaty process.
The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will engage with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities with the aim of truth-telling and truth-listening.
Named after the Wemba Wemba / Wamba Wamba word for truth, the Yoo-rrook Commission will examine both the historic and ongoing injustices committed against Aboriginal Victorians since colonisation, across all areas of social, political, cultural and economic life.
The establishment of the Commission makes Victoria the first state or territory to institute a formal truth-telling forum.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino said it is long-overdue.
“It’s an acknowledgement that the pain in our past is present in the lives of people right now. It’s a recognition that without truth, without justice you can’t have a treaty,” he said.
“Giving Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike the opportunity to tell their whole story, for that to be a path to truth and a path to healing.”
“You can’t have true reconciliation for all Victorians until we go through this process.”
In 2020, the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria formally called for a truth and justice commission as an essential part of the treaty process and in line with their calls the independent inquiry will have the powers of a royal commission.
Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria Aunty Geraldine Atkinson spoke of her own personal trauma and the difficulty reliving those memories.
“We know that it is going to be a traumatic experience retelling those stories, and I feel for those families that are going to have to do it – but all those truths need to be told,” she said.
“The truths that our elders had to endure, that our ancestors endured – genocide, massacres, a whole range of truth that needs to be told.”
“And I think by that truth being told – it will only draw us closer to the wider community – who will then understand about the impacts of past injustices and intergenerational trauma that our young fellas are facing today.”
The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission is expected to begin in July 2021 with its final report due 3 years after its establishment.