Victorian Public Sector leaders to learn from New Zealand’s Treaty experience

Wellington beach
  • Published Date: 09 July 2018

An ANZSOG and Victorian Public Sector Commission delegation will visit Wellington later this month to examine how the public sector is working with Māori communities.

The delegation will spend three days meeting with Māori leaders in politics and business, to learn from New Zealand’s experience of having the Treaty of Waitangi as the foundation for their relationship with its First People.

The Victorian Government is playing a major leadership role in progress towards a Treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and ANZSOG is facilitating Aboriginal Victorian public sector leaders from the VPSC and the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet to meet with officials from New Zealand agencies including the Ministry of Social Development, the Auckland Co-Design Lab and the Federation of Māori Authorities.

The tour will examine the New Zealand approach to Indigenous policy, with its emphasis on local control, self-determination, support of the Māori economy and incorporating Indigenous knowledge and culture into New Zealand’s national story.

Taryn Lee, director of Aboriginal affairs policy in Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, said she was excited by the opportunity to be part of the delegation.

“In Victoria, Aboriginal people have their own unique needs and aspirations when it comes to policy and treaty making, but we still have a lot we can learn and share with our counterparts in New Zealand,” she said.

“We are pursuing a self-determination agenda and the development of a treaty. This is not new internationally, and it is important to see what other countries are doing with their Indigenous peoples. 

“Although we will still need to develop something that fits the unique needs and aspirations of Aboriginal Victorians - it won’t be a carbon copy.

“The Victorian Government has a commitment to self-determination and engaging with Aboriginal people, making sure we have a real say in the design and development of policy that affects us. That is a cultural change and something we can share with people in New Zealand.”

ANZSOG Associate Dean (Academic) Professor Catherine Althaus said that the delegation would connect Victorian public servants with their counterparts in New Zealand and give them an understanding of how New Zealand’s experience with the Treaty of Waitangi could shape Victoria’s future dealings with Indigenous people.

“New Zealand has used a treaty framework to develop a system that values culture and allows communities some independence and self-determination.

“New Zealand has a different history and different social conditions to Australia, but it is important that we learn from what they have done and are doing.

“For example, the Whānau Ora (family heath) initiative is giving local communities control by devolving the delivery of health services to community-based commissioning agencies. This initiative has sparked debate in New Zealand about its pros and cons, and is worth examining.”

Professor Althaus said that the visit would create links between delegates and senior Māori leaders, in the public sector and in the business community.

“We want to learn how New Zealand’s public sector leaders have built and maintained their relationships with Māori people, including what they have done to successfully support the development of the Māori economy,” she said.

Victorian Public Sector Commissioner Dr Paul Grimes said that the delegation presents a significant opportunity for learning. “There are valuable insights from the New Zealand experience that will help to guide and strengthen the Victorian public sector’s engagement with Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island community as we move towards Aboriginal self-determination,” he said.  

Legislation has been passed by the Victorian Parliament to begin negotiations for a Treaty and the Office of the Treaty Advancement Commissioner has been created to consult with Aboriginal Victorians and create a representative body to negotiate a treaty.

Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher has said that there is strong support for a Treaty, and her goal is to have a commission of representatives set up by July next year.

“We are facing the challenge of creating an Aboriginal representative body that must fit within western institutions but also be culturally strong,” she said.

“Settlement in Victoria was quick and brutal, and we need to acknowledge the work that needs to be done by communities to mobilise themselves and overcome the damage of the past before treaties can be negotiated.”

The delegation will return to Victoria and compile a presentation for Aboriginal Victoria to address these key initiatives being undertaken by the Victorian Government, and to share what they have learnt from the visit.

Professor Althaus said that ANZSOG would continue to work towards improving the way the public sector worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and New Zealand, including such issues as lifting the number of Indigenous people at all levels of the public sector, and creating public services that embraced Indigenous knowledge and culture.

Read more about ANZSOG’s Indigenous engagement.