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Partnering with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (Assembly)

A representative body for Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians

Under the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018External Link , the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (Assembly) is the sole representative of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians for the purpose of establishing elements necessary to support future treaty negotiations. The Assembly was designed through extensive community consultation across Victoria, led by the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Ms Jill Gallagher AO, as outlined in the 2018–2019 Treaty Annual Report.

The Assembly is comprised of 31 members to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal voices across Victoria. A seat is reserved for each of the 11 formally recognised Traditional Owner groups in Victoria, with 21 general seats elected by votes held in five voting regions. One formally recognised Traditional Owner group has decided not to nominate a member for its reserved seat.

Each Assembly member is responsible for ensuring the views of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians continue to inform the treaty process. Elected members represent Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians within their respective regions, while reserved seat members represent members of their Traditional Owner groups. Details of all Assembly members are available on the Assembly's website.

To support the Assembly to engage with community across the State on treaty, the State Budget 2020–21 provided $19.2 million over three years. This funding supported the Assembly to bolster its capacity to consult, engage and include Aboriginal Victorians and Traditional Owners in the treaty process, including on truth and justice issues, and supported its operations in continuing to work with the State to establish the elements necessary to advance treaty. This investment builds on the $11.0 million provided to the Assembly over two years in the State Budget 2019–20.

Throughout the past year, the Assembly has continued to lead online and in-person community information sharing, consultation and engagement across regions to ensure that all Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians have a voice in the treaty process. For further information on the Assembly’s community information sharing, consultation and engagement, please refer to the Assembly’s 2020/21 Treaty Annual Report.

Negotiation events and activities

The State and the Assembly formally commenced treaty elements negotiations on 3 August 2020. This historic meeting was conducted virtually with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs representing the State team and the Assembly Co-Chairs representing the Assembly.

After this initial meeting, negotiations have continued on a weekly basis between the Assembly and State negotiation teams. Negotiations are also supported by regular meetings between the Assembly Co-Chairs and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. At the Assembly’s invitation, the Minister has also attended Assembly Board and Chamber meetings. The State engaged substantially and regularly with the Assembly during the period of this annual report.

This comprised:

  • negotiations with the Assembly's negotiation team to discuss the treaty and truth and justice processes
  • negotiations with the Assembly’s Co-Chairs to discuss treaty
  • negotiations with the Assembly’s Co-Chairs and the Assembly’s Truth and Justice Committee specifically on the truth and justice process.

Important outcomes publicly released from the negotiations between the State and the Assembly during this period include the following:

  • 11 July 2020 – The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announced the Victorian Government’s commitment to establish a truth and justice process to formally recognise historic wrongs and address ongoing injustices for Aboriginal Victorians.
  • 3 August 2020 – The Victorian Government and the Assembly held their first official negotiating meeting, marking a historic moment on Victoria’s path to treaty. In keeping with COVID-19 restrictions, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams met virtually with Assembly Co- Chairs Geraldine Atkinson and Marcus Stewart to formally commence treaty negotiations.
  • 8 February 2021 – The dispute resolution process for treaty element negotiations between the Co-Chairs of the Assembly and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was formally signed. The dispute resolution process provides a transparent and culturally safe dispute mechanism as
    both parties work towards treaty.
  • 9 March 2021 – The Acting Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs together with the Assembly’s Co-Chairs announced the commitment to establish the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission (Commission) at Coranderrk, near Healesville. The State and the Assembly released a joint statement on Victoria’s truth and justice process.
  • 14 May 2021 – The Acting Premier, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams and Assembly’s Co-Chairs announced the appointment of the five Commissioners to the Commission and released the letters patent at Yarra Bend Park, a site of sorrow and assimilation for First Nations people. The Aboriginal-led Commission was established as Australia’s first truth-telling process.

Parties have remained committed to progressing treaty despite COVID-19 restrictions requiring negotiations to take place in largely a virtual setting. The outcomes agreed through negotiations are further detailed in the following pages.

Reviewed 01 November 2021

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