The annual Rerum Novarum Oration took place last night at the ACU's Philippa Brazil Theatre, hosted by the Archdiocese Office for Justice and Peace.
Eleanor Burke, co-chair of the Victoria Aboriginal Treaty Working Group, gave the oration entitled, “Walking Tall”, and made clear that Indigenous Australians have long argued for a treaty with the government, as they never ceded sovereignty of their nations and lands.
Established in 2016, the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group is made up from Victorian Traditional Owners from across the state and aims to bring community voices into the treaty process.
‘My ancestors never saw treaties,’ Eleanor said. ‘This is a huge opportunity for all of us now— and I hope communities will embrace it. This isn’t about guilt or blame; we are not responsible for what our ancestors did, but we are accountable. Don’t be a bystander. Every Victorian can get involved by informing themselves.
Treaties are a step towards promoting fundamental human rights—something Pope Leo XIII spoke of in his seminal encyclical, Rerum Novarum (1891), which is considered foundational to Catholic Social Teaching.
‘The strength and success [of this Treaty] will depend on our ability to walk together. To learn from the failings of the past. And set our younger people up with a better education and deeper understanding of the country in which they are living.’
Joining Eleanor in her response to the Oration, Executive Office for Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Victoria Sherry Balcombe expressed enthusiasm to the current progress being made.
‘I’m excited,’ said Sherry. ‘But we need your help. Walk beside us. It’s a matter of justice, and as Aunty Eleanor said, we need to start healing, so we can start moving on. But you have to have open hearts to hear it. That’s what this treaty is all about,’ she said.
‘We are on the cusp of making history in this country.’
To learn more about the Treaty process and the First People’s Assembly, visit https://victreatyadvancement.org.au/news.