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Working in partnership with the Assembly to advance the treaty process

To establish a positive working relationship with the Assembly, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has been meeting regularly with Assembly representatives.

Demonstrating a commitment to a new treaty partnership

In line with the State-Assembly partnership in Phase 2 of treaty, the Assembly invited senior State representatives to address inaugural members at its first meeting in the Victorian Parliament. The Premier the Hon. Daniel Andrews MP, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings and the former Parliamentary Secretary for Treaty the Hon. Natalie Hutchins MP attended on the State’s behalf, demonstrating the government’s serious commitment to forging a strong treaty partnership with the Assembly.

At the meeting, the Premier addressed Assembly members, confirming the government’s commitment to a genuine treaty partnership with the Assembly and a reset of the relationship with Aboriginal Victorians as necessary for a more honest, just, inclusive and respectful future together. He further outlined his vision for treaty:

“We have to, together, do everything we can to heal the wounds of the past, and we have to build a shared, common future—one that is hopeful, one that is realistic at the same time but one that is truly about self-determination.”

He finished by thanking Assembly members for their leadership, not only on behalf of their communities but on behalf of all Victorians for the benefits that treaty will bring to the state:

“This work is being led by Aboriginal people, but the beneficiaries are a much broader group. They are in fact every single Victorian, and for that I am proud and very grateful to you.”

Former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gavin Jennings, also spoke, reflecting on the incredible durability of Aboriginal cultures and their remarkable histories in what is now Victoria, while recognising the terrible acts perpetrated against Aboriginal Victorians in the Victorian Parliament – where the meeting was held – throughout Victoria’s history. He spoke of the strength, pride and resilience of Aboriginal Victorians in the face of these historical atrocities which has led us to this point in the treaty process. He concluded by identifying that treaty represented unfinished business for the State and noted his pride in being part of the shared journey to realise the aspirations of Aboriginal Victorians.

Forging a new relationship with the Assembly

To establish a positive working relationship with the Assembly, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has been meeting regularly with Assembly representatives. As senior representatives of the State and Assembly respectively, the Minister and the Assembly’s co-chairs have been meeting monthly to advance treaty discussions. At the Assembly’s invitation, the Minister has attended Assembly Board and Chamber meetings.

These meetings have been valuable opportunities to establish a strong treaty partnership, hear about the Assembly’s work to date and discuss current issues and next steps in the treaty process. While this work has been complicated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, both government and the Assembly have remained committed to maintaining the momentum of the treaty process.

To date, discussions between government and the Assembly have primarily focused on operational and procedural matters. This has enabled the parties to establish how they can best work together to progress treaty and has also provided time for each party to begin to identify interests in relation to the treaty elements, which must be established by agreement. Substantive discussions on the treaty elements commenced on 3 August 2020.

Supporting the Assembly to fulfil its functions

The Victorian Budget 2019/20 provided $11.046 million for the Assembly’s operations over two years. DPC, on behalf of the Victorian Government, has entered into an agreement with the Assembly to provide this funding.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented some unforeseen challenges for the Assembly, most notably by preventing direct community engagement with Aboriginal Victorians. The Victorian Government has provided additional IT and connectivity support for Assembly members to support them to continue their work throughout the pandemic and is actively working to ensure that adequate resources are available to the Assembly to undertake broad and inclusive engagement with Aboriginal Victorians. The Assembly has continued to engage with the Aboriginal community digitally throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions, including by publishing resources, podcasts and videos on its website and hosting online community discussions live-streamed on its Facebook page.