A few weeks ago Victorians went to the polls with the extravagant promises of the major parties ringing in their ears. With the state awash in GST revenue there was something in the pork-barrel for almost everyone.
Unless you are an Indigenous Victorian, of course. If that's your situation then you missed out. Again.
“There are no votes in blackfellas” is an old adage from Northern Territory electoral politics but it applies equally across the country.
Received wisdom is that Indigenous Australians have no realistic alternative to preferencing the ALP ahead of the more conservative parties. This being the case, there was no need for Labor to duchess the Koorie community.
There was certainly no mileage in making promises which might have alienated the cockies in the rural seats that the ALP picked up at the 2002 election. This is not to say that the Bracks Government has failed Indigenous Victorians entirely.
Over the last seven years they have made some incremental gains, most notably the introduction of Koorie Courts in the criminal justice sector.
However progress across the board is so grindingly slow that it would be unacceptable in any other area of public policy. Improvements in health and education only trickle down to a community in desperate need. This lack of substantial progress is most noticeable in the vexed province of native title.
It was Bracks who despatched Queens Counsel to Canberra to help scuttle the Yorta Yorta native title claim in 2002, telegraphing the fact that there would be no easy wins for Indigenous Victoria under the new guard.
However, there has also been one notable success.
Horseshoe Bend isn't marked on most maps. But Federal Court justice Ron Merkel found his way to this little corner of Victoria's Wimmera on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 to announce the state's first determination of native title.
But more than three years had slipped by since Attorney General Rob Hulls held a celebration in the grounds of Parliament House in October 2002 to express his “very profound pride” in the achievement of the in-principle agreement.
This important symbolic recognition of traditional ownership by the state government was a critical step forward. However this deal, which involved the determination “by consent” that native title still existed on a narrow strip of land on either side of the Wimmera River was not without strings.
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