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What was the approach?

Traditional Owners of the Mid North West, North East and Far East Gippsland

These projects aimed to engage as broadly as possible in the three regions. Information about the projects and invitations to meet were advertised and promoted by:

  • First Nations Legal & Research Services distributing project information sheets to their mailing list for the regions.
  • Speaking with the relevant Local Aboriginal Networks (LANs).
  • Getting in touch with key contacts recommended by officers working in the regions.
  • Publishing the project information sheet on the Aboriginal Victoria website.

In total there were 24 meetings held with over 120 Traditional Owners from the Mid North West, North East and Far East Gippsland regions of Victoria. These meetings took place between December 2018 and June 2019. Meeting participants controlled who they wanted to invite to meetings, where the meetings were held and when they wanted to meet. The project team generally met with smaller family groups and, where possible, met with groups more than once, although participants at these meetings varied.

The project team’s Aboriginal Engagement Officer played a leading role in coordinating meetings, providing support to Traditional Owners, having pre-meeting conversations and using knowledge of each region and the various family groups to help design and advise the facilitator on meeting protocols, structure and approach.

Most meetings were facilitated by an independent Aboriginal facilitator from the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute. The presence of an independent Aboriginal facilitator created space at meetings for Traditional Owner groups to express their views, opinions and stories openly and with honesty.

Thorough meeting plans were developed that allowed for both the collection of standardised information across the regions while also being responsive to the circumstances of each group.

From the outset, the project team adopted principles that underpinned engagement with all participants. These included:

  • Being upfront about the projects, including their limitations.
  • Being inclusive (meeting with everyone who wanted to meet).
  • Being available for Traditional Owners if they had questions or concerns in the lead up to, during and after the meetings.
  • Ensuring Traditional Owners were in control of their information.
  • Bringing Traditional Owner groups together in culturally safe ways that did no further harm.

Some Traditional Owners did not respond to the correspondence. Other groups actively disengaged from the projects. Accordingly, the feedback contained in this report is not representative of the views of all Traditional Owner groups with interests in the Mid North West, North East and Far East Gippsland.

Traditional Owners with formal recognition

Invitations were sent to all formally recognised Traditional Owner groups, offering to speak or meet with them about the two projects. Interviews and small group discussions were held with groups that chose to participate. In total, eight groups spoke with the project team about the Scheme, and six spoke about the Engagement Project.

Engagement with Traditional Owner groups with formal recognition occurred through the established corporate governance structures of the board or CEO. As these conversations often occurred with an individual or small group, the feedback provided in this report may not reflect the full scope of thoughts and experiences of the groups.

Travel support

Participants were offered travel support to travel to and attend the meetings at locations of their choosing, but were not paid for their time at the meetings or advice provided. As set out in the feedback, many participants expressed that government should have paid participants for their time and advice on these projects.

At each meeting, the project team explained how information was to be collected, managed and used. Aboriginal Victoria staff requested permission to take notes and collect the following information to include in a draft meeting summary:

  • Names of people recorded in attendance.
  • Summary of the discussion at the meeting as well as key quotes.
  • Contact details for participants who wish to receive the draft meeting summaries.

When consent to this process was provided, it was agreed by all that the meeting summaries with identifying information were to remain confidential, but that the information could be de-identified and included in this report. The draft summaries were then either posted or emailed to the participants for review. Participants were able to withdraw their consent at any time during the meeting or following the meeting by contacting the project team.