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About the Framework


In 2018, the Victorian Government refreshed the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023 (VAAF) in partnership with Aboriginal Victorians through broad and inclusive engagement. The VAAF is Victoria’s overarching strategic framework for working with Aboriginal Victorians to drive improved outcomes.

The VAAF includes goals, indicators and measures to guide and track government progress to achieve positive outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians across six domains:

  • children, family and home
  • learning and skills
  • opportunity and prosperity
  • health and wellbeing
  • justice and safety
  • culture and country

The VAAF commits government to advancing Aboriginal self-determination. In doing so, the VAAF builds on and goes beyond previous government approaches, by recognising that to improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians, government must enable self-determination through systemic and structural transformation. The VAAF also requires that government report on its efforts to enable self-determination in the annual Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report (VGAAR) and commits to establishing an Aboriginal-led Evaluation and Review Mechanism to track government’s progress against the VAAF.

Scope of this Framework

The Victorian Government is comprised of a range of entities, from government departments, to independent agencies and authorities, to government-funded organisations in the service sector. As a starting point for enabling self-determination, this Framework focuses primarily on government departments, but is not intended to restrict further action or limit areas where self-determination work has already extended beyond this. This scope will be reviewed in future and may be expanded as government’s capacity to enable self-determination increases.

How does this Framework relate to treaty?

This Framework does not limit or anticipate the impact and role that a future treaty or treaties may have on the Victorian Government’s efforts to enable self-determination. Treaty will provide the foundation for a new, positive relationship between the State and Aboriginal Victorians by determining how each party’s priorities, interests and responsibilities can be realised together into the future. The priorities and actions in this Framework will be reviewed regularly and will respond to the actions and changes required in the future to facilitate outcomes of a treaty or treaties.


This document, the Self-Determination Reform Framework, is intended to guide public service action to enable self-determination in line with government’s commitments in the VAAF. It also provides an architecture for reporting on this action.

The purpose of this Framework is to:

  1. Build on and update the 2011 Victorian Government Aboriginal Inclusion Framework (VGAIF). The VGAIF committed to embedding inclusive, consistent and accessible services to Aboriginal people within the processes of government and has been critical in focusing government action. Since then, the Victorian Public Service (VPS) has built on this commitment to Aboriginal inclusion and gone further by acknowledging government’s role in enabling Aboriginal self-determination. This Framework reflects this growth, builds on existing action across government, and refocuses efforts around self-determination.
  2. Provide a consistent understanding of how government should enable self-determination. Aboriginal Victorians have identified four self-determination enablers (articulated in the VAAF, Figure 1) as ways in which government should transform its systems and structures over the next five years to facilitate self-determination. This Framework, based on the enablers, will be the key reference point for government reforms to facilitate self-determination, to ensure we are all working from a shared understanding and working collaboratively towards common goals.
  3. Provide guidance for whole of government and departmental transformation to enable self-determination. This Framework will ensure there is a coordinated approach across the Victorian Government to enabling self-determination. It is designed to unify existing fragmented action, ensuring government transformation is comprehensive, and encourage an environment of collaboration, knowledge-sharing and learning from both successes and challenges. Consistent commitment and resourcing from departments will likely be required to ensure genuine action under this Framework and the VAAF.
  4. Provide a consistent approach to reporting on government’s efforts to enable self-determination. This Framework will ensure government is accountable for its progress towards enabling self-determination, primarily through annual departmental reporting against the template in Chapter 3.2. As committed to in the VAAF, government’s approach to system-wide, whole of government self-determination action will be reported annually in the VGAAR. Annual departmental reporting under this Framework will inform the qualitative content included in the VGAAR.

Figure 1. VAAF self-determination enablers

Self-determination enablers

  • Prioritise culture
  • Address trauma and support healing
  • Address racism and promote cultural safety
  • Transfer power and resources to communities
Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework self-determination enables

Government’s commitment to self-determination

What is self-determination?

The VAAF outlines government’s commitment to advancing Aboriginal self-determination.

This commitment is built on community perspectives and priorities regarding self-determination,
acknowledging the decades that Aboriginal Victorians have fought for self-determination and
their right to make decisions on matters that affect their lives and communities.

While Aboriginal self-determination means different things to different people, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) describes self-determination as the ability for Indigenous people to freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development. It also describes self-determination as a right that relates to groups of people, not individuals.

Government has heard from community that Aboriginal self-determination encompasses a
spectrum of rights that are necessary for Aboriginal Victorians to achieve economic, social and cultural equity, based on their own values and way of life.

Why is self-determination important?

Self-determination is the key approach that has produced effective and sustainable improvement in outcomes for Indigenous people across many jurisdictions.

Government action to enable self-determination acknowledges that Aboriginal Victorians hold the knowledge and expertise about what is best for themselves, their families and their communities. Building on this, the VAAF action logic (Figure 2) acknowledges that government
action to enable self-determination is the critical first step in achieving improved outcomes for
Aboriginal Victorians.

Figure 2. VAAF action logic

1. Self-determination enablers

  • Prioritise culture
  • Address trauma and support healing
  • Address racism and promote cultural safety
  • Transfer power and resources to communities

2. Elimination of structural and systemic barriers experienced by Aboriginal Victorians

3. Aboriginal Victorians are empowered to own and drive safe, relevant and accessible responses to meet their needs

4. Increase in the safety, relevance, accessibility of universal and targeted systems and services

5. Increase in Aboriginal Victorians confidently accessing systems and services that support them to thrive

Victorian Aboriginal Affairs action logic

What should government do to enable self-determination?

While Aboriginal self-determination is driven by community, government has responsibility for many of the systems and structures that enable self-determination. Government must therefore transform its systems and structures to support self-determination and improve outcomes for Aboriginal people.

The way government enables Aboriginal self-determination will continue to evolve over time,
based on changing community expectations and needs. However, through broad engagement with community in developing the VAAF, participants identified four self-determination enablers that government should commit to and act upon to make Aboriginal self-determination a reality
(Figure 2).

Across Victoria, there are many community-led and culturally responsive initiatives and strategies already enabling Aboriginal self-determination. Work to implement the four self-determination enablers will acknowledge, align with, and build from these existing initiatives and strategies.

How should government implement self-determination?

Eleven self-determination guiding principles were developed following extensive
community engagement with Aboriginal Victorians. In enabling self-determination,
government action should be consistent with the guiding principles:

  • human rights
  • cultural integrity
  • commitment
  • Aboriginal expertise
  • partnership
  • decision-making
  • empowerment
  • cultural safety
  • investment
  • equity
  • accountability

The guiding principles set the minimum standards for all existing and future work with Aboriginal Victorians and will guide all government work to progress self-determination going forward.