We proudly acknowledge the First Peoples of Victoria and their ongoing strength in practicing the world’s oldest living culture. We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters on which we live and work and pay our respects to their Elders past and present.
Victorian Traditional Owners maintain that their sovereignty has never been ceded. Since time immemorial, Victorian Traditional Owners have practiced their laws, customs and languages, and nurtured Country through their spiritual, material and economic connections to land, water and resources.
We acknowledge that while Aboriginal Victorians are strong in their culture and identity, there are long-lasting, far-reaching and intergenerational consequences of colonisation and dispossession. The reality of colonisation involved the establishment of laws and policies with the specific intent of excluding Aboriginal people and their laws, customs, cultures and traditions. We acknowledge that the impact and structures of colonisation still exist today.
Finally, we acknowledge the invaluable contributions of all those who have paved the way and fought for the rights of Aboriginal people, including the right to self-determination. We also recognise the ongoing contribution of Aboriginal people and communities to Victorian life and how this continues to enrich our society more broadly. Through the strength, resilience and pride of Aboriginal Victorians, their cultures, communities and economies endure and continue to grow and thrive today.
We recognise the diversity of Aboriginal people living throughout Victoria. While the terms ‘Koorie’ or ‘Koori’ are commonly used by Aboriginal people of Southeast Australia, we have used the term Aboriginal in this Report to include all people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who are living in Victoria. The use of the words ‘our’ and ‘we’ throughout this document refers to the Victorian Government.
Message from the Premier
Here in Victoria, we’re committed to advancing Treaty and self-determination.
It represents a fundamental reset in the relationship between Aboriginal communities and government: A reset that means the voices of Aboriginal people are being heard and government is being held to account. And as this report shows, the actions we’ve taken – together – are important first steps.
But although we’ve made some vital progress, there remains much more to be done. We must close the gap of disadvantage, but we must also go beyond only looking at deficits. And fundamentally, we must ensure Aboriginal people are being given the respect and the responsibility to write their own futures. Nothing less will do.
The Hon Daniel Andrews MP
Premier of Victoria
Message from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I’m proud to present the first annual report on the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023.
The new framework sets an ambitious agenda for Aboriginal affairs in Victoria, ensuring government is working alongside Aboriginal communities, Traditional Owners, organisations and businesses to advance self-determination.
This Report tells a complex story that celebrates the successes and achievements of Aboriginal Victorians, while continuing to highlight the areas in which government must further commit its energy and resources, under Aboriginal leadership, to address systemic inequalities.
There are areas where we are continuing to make great progress, such as education, health and economic participation. However, there remain critical areas where we are not making progress fast enough, such as the over-representation of Aboriginal children in care, and over-representation of Aboriginal people across the justice system.
I acknowledge the far-reaching consequences of colonial violence, including dispossession of land and traditional culture. There is unfinished business in this nation of addressing these matters that should never have come to be. This history means that fostering connection to culture and country is critical to improving outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. For the first time in this report, we are reporting on how we are ensuring Aboriginal Victorians have access to their cultural rights, including maintaining and revitalising language and transferring decision-making for land, waters and resources.
As the historic work towards treaty continues, the relationship between government and Aboriginal communities will continue to evolve. It is my hope that this report, the first of its kind under the new Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023, will be used to shape strategic action as we work with Aboriginal Victorians to reimagine a future to which all can aspire.
The Hon. Gavin Jennings
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Message from the Secretary
I am privileged to be part of the Secretaries’ Leadership Group on Aboriginal Affairs. The work we are undertaking with Secretaries and leaders from all Victorian Government departments is guided by our commitment to embedding Aboriginal self-determination.
I am delighted that this Report provides a new way to monitor the progress we are making across government departments to improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians and enable Aboriginal self-determination. This work is happening in partnership with the Aboriginal Executive Council, which comprises executives from peak and statewide Aboriginal organisations across Victoria charged with advising on whole of government self-determination reform.
A critical step we have made in 2019 is the development of the Victorian Government Self-Determination Reform Framework. Under this framework, all Victorian Government departments are now required to report annually, from 2020, on how they are enabling self-determination in line with the commitments in the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023.
While there is a significant way to go yet, our actions this year have created a solid foundation for the public service to work alongside Aboriginal communities to create genuine change. In this way, we can work together to meet our commitment to embed self-determination into the systems, structures and everyday work of the Victorian Government.
Chris Eccles AO
Purpose of this Report
The purpose of the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report (the Report) is to outline progress towards achieving the vision of the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023 (VAAF): ‘that all Aboriginal Victorian people, families and communities are safe, resilient, thriving and living culturally rich lives’.
To measure progress towards achieving this vision, this Report sets out how we are working to realise the 20 goals across six domains in the VAAF:
- Children, family and home
- Learning and skills
- Opportunity and prosperity
- Heath and wellbeing
- Justice and safety
- Culture and Country
The 20 goals are clear statements of what the future should look like if we achieve our vision. Each goal includes several objectives and measures to track progress.
Collecting data for, and reporting against, each of these measures through this Report provides community and government with valuable information. This allows us to monitor progress across all areas of life, as well as the challenges that we still need to address.
Assessment of progress in the Report is made by examining data from 2008 (or closest to) until the end of 2018-19 (or the most updated validated data). As data is sourced from annual administrative collections as well as survey data, the baseline and latest year of available data varies across the Report.
To maintain consistency with current reporting practices, all rates not directly sourced from published reports are calculated using population denominators drawn from the 2011 ABS census-based population estimates and projections. In the 2020 Report, rates will be updated using the 2016 census-based population estimates and projections, which may alter data for certain measures.
While this is the first annual Report on the new VAAF, it builds on previous annual reports over many years and the previous Victorian Indigenous Affairs Frameworks, which began in 2006.
The Report is intended to keep government accountable for improving outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians as well as ongoing work to progress Aboriginal self-determination.
A new way of reporting
In 2018, the Victorian Government worked with Victorian Aboriginal communities and organisations to develop a new VAAF that would set an ambitious and forward-looking agenda for Aboriginal affairs.
The development of the new VAAF signified a meaningful shift, one that renewed government’s commitment to Aboriginal self-determination. This commitment acknowledges that the best outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians are achieved when policies and programs are led and guided by the knowledge and expertise of Aboriginal people.
The journey of transferring power, decision-making and resources back to Aboriginal communities is at an early stage. The Victorian Aboriginal community told government that they wanted the future agenda to be strengths-based and to demonstrate and celebrate the unique strengths and achievements of the Victorian Aboriginal community.
Community members also told government that we must move away from previous approaches focused on gaps, deficits and laying individual blame, and instead focus on the significant shift required across systems, services, policies and broader society to improve outcomes and opportunities for Aboriginal Victorians.
The VAAF explicitly frames the understanding of and response to Aboriginal disadvantage by acknowledging the impact of dispossession of Aboriginal people that occurred from European colonisation and its intergenerational impact.
This Report provides the first progress report on the Victorian Government’s commitment to embed self-determination across all areas of the government as the underpinning approach in Aboriginal affairs.
Consistent with this, these annual reports will no longer focus solely on how Aboriginal people are faring, but will aim to hold government accountable for what we are doing to improve outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians and enable self-determination.
Positive change requires not only a fundamental shift in the way that governments work with Aboriginal people, it also requires significant government effort to eliminate the structural and systemic barriers experienced by Aboriginal Victorians, including ensuring services and programs are culturally-safe and community-owned.
Reviewed 30 December 2019