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True Reconciliation Requires a Treaty


Event Status

Terra nullius was long ago exposed as a myth – and this was enshrined in law with the Mabo case in 1992.

If we acknowledge that Australia was colonised on a lie, then what should we do about it? How do we compensate for that centuries-old theft? It’s too late to reverse, but official recognition of the sovereign rights of Indigenous Australians is well overdue. True reconciliation between Indigenous and immigrant Australians is impossible without addressing past wrongs – you can’t heal a wound without treating it. But how do we do that? Many believe that a treaty is essential – our neighbour New Zealand and contemporary Canada have established treaties, recognised by the UN. Others think it’s enough to implement constitutional change that recognises indigenous cultures, languages and peoples.

We’ll debate the need for a treaty – and the way to achieve true reconciliation – with a passionate panel of experts.

Chaired by Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams.

Speaking for the proposition:

  • Professor George Williams AO: leading constitutional lawyer and public commentator, professor of law at the University of New South Wales, former High Court barrister, columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Mark Yettica-Paulson: leadership facilitator specialising in engagement and partnership with Indigenous Australia.
  • Professor Mick Dodson AM: director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University, Professor of law at the ANU College of Law, and 2009 Australian of the Year.

Speaking against the proposition:

  • Professor Peter Sutton: author, anthropologist and linguist, affiliate professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide and the Division of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum.
  • Tony Birch: author of the Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel Blood and other books; writing teacher with an interest in community outreach.
  • Gregory Phillips: medical anthropologist, executive director ABSTARR Consulting, adjunct senior lecturer in Aboriginal Health at Monash University and co-founder of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.

Tweet at this event: #iq2oz

Intelligence Squared Debates

The Wheeler Centre and St James Ethics Centre combine again in 2013 to bring you a brand new series of Intelligence Squared debates.

Established in 2002, IQ2 has spread across the globe, bringing the traditional form of Cambridge and Oxford Unions-style debating – with two sides proposing and opposing a sharply formed motion – to Melbourne Town Hall.


Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton is an author, anthropologist and linguist, and an Affiliate Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and the Division of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum. He has lived and worked with Aboriginal people in remote, urban and rur... Read more

George Williams

George Williams AO is the Anthony Mason Professor and a Scientia Professor, as well as a Deputy Vice Chancellor, at UNSW. He was a member of the Australian government’s Constitutional Expert Group that advised on the wording of the Voice referendum and is an author with Megan Davis of Everything Y... Read more

Mick Dodson

Professor Mick Dodson is a member of the Yawuru peoples – the traditional owners of land and waters in the Broome area of the southern Kimberley region of Western Australia. He is director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University and professor of law at t... Read more

Mark Yettica-Paulson

Mark Yettica-Paulson is an Australian Indigenous man from southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. Mark is the founder and director of The Yettica Group, specialising in Indigenous leadership and intercultural facilitation. Mark is a founding member of the National Indigenous Youth Moveme... Read more

Michael Williams

Michael Williams joined Sydney Writers’ Festival in September 2020, as the Artistic Director navigating the post-pandemic landscape going into the 2021 festival. He has spent the past decade at the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne; as its founding Head of Programming in 200... Read more

Gregory Phillips

Gregory Phillips is from the Waanyi and Jaru peoples, and comes from Cloncurry and Mount Isa. He is a medical anthropologist, with thirty years’ experience in leading change in cultural safety, healing and decolonisation.Gregory is Chief Executive Officer of ABSTARR Consulting, is a Professor of... Read more

Tony Birch

Tony Birch holds the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at Melbourne University. He is the author of three novels, five short fiction collections, and two poetry books. In 2023 he will release a new novel, Women and Children. ... Read more


Melbourne Town Hall

90-120 Swanston Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.