The Yoo-rrook commission is Aboriginal-led and is the first truth-telling body to be established in Australia.
Mob have been calling for a process of truth-telling in this country for years and it was agreed by the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (the Assembly) that it was an essential part of the treaty process and in June 2020, called on the Victorian government to establish a formal process for truth-telling.
The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission
The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission was formally established in May 2021 following months of work between the Victorian government and the Assembly – Yoo-rrook means ‘truth’ in the Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba language.
The commission is Aboriginal-led and is the first truth-telling body to be established in Australia. It has the full powers of a royal commission (this includes the ability to hold public hearings, call witnesses under oath, compel evidence and make recommendations to government) however, unlike other royal commissions the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission is focussed on truth-telling.
Who are the Commissioners?
The Victorian Government, the Assembly and the International Center for Transitional Justice worked together to create and independent panel that would oversee the nominations for the Commission and then decide on the final Commissioners.
The five Yoo-rrook Justice Commissioners leading the Commission are:
- Professor Eleanor Bourke (Chair) – a Wergaia/Wamba Wamba Elder with decades of leadership and dedication to advancing Aboriginal education and cultural heritage.
- Dr Wayne Atkinson – a Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung Elder and Traditional Owner and accomplished academic with substantial knowledge and experience in human rights, land justice, cultural heritage and Koori oral history programs.
- Ms Sue-Anne Hunter – a Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum Wurrung woman recognised as a leader in trauma and healing practices.
- Distinguished Professor Maggie Walter – a Palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) woman descending from the Pairrebenne People of the North East Nation, and a Distinguished Professor of Sociology, and leading expert in systemic disadvantage, inequality and Indigenous Data Sovereignty.
- Professor the Honourable Kevin Bell AM QC – the Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law in the Faculty of Law at Monash University and a former justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria
- Meet the Yoo-Rrook Commissioners
“The Commissioners bring enormous knowledge and experience and are empowered by comprehensive terms of reference to examine the injustices of today and those that came before – they will now begin their work charting a path towards justice and healing.” - Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams
The Yoo-Rrook Commissioners. Source: Yoo-Rrook Justice Commission.
What is the Commissions aim and their next steps?
The Commission will look into instances of systemic injustices against mob in Victoria both historical (massacres, wars, etc.) and contemporary (policing, child protection, etc.). in doing this they will aim to “establish an official record of the impact of colonisation on First Peoples in Victoria using First Peoples’ stories.”
The Commission will also determine the causes and the consequences of these injustices as well as who is responsible. The Commissioners will be expected to make recommendations for changes/reform in relation to laws, policy and education that address these issues. These reports will also detail what topics matters should be prioritised through the treaty process.
The Yoo-rrook Justice Commissions first report is expected by June 2022, with a final report by June 2024.
Understanding the Yoo-Rrook Logo
The gathering place (circle) and boomerangs of our new logo form the shape of a person with their arms wide open. This figure represents our cultural rights as First Peoples and that we are ready to embrace the truth and offer support.
The boomerangs are also facing inward to recognise the reparation, reclamation and courage to go within to be ready to tell ones truth.