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 – with the exception of specific programs and frameworks with Koori in the title.
The use of the words ‘our’ and ‘we’ throughout this document refers to the Victorian Government.
Message from the Acting Premier
This year's Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Report again reveals a complex reality.
Within its pages, the deep structural and societal injustices First Nations people continue to confront – and their remarkable strength and survival in the face of it all.
Measuring our progress and setbacks is no simple task. The inequalities communities face are both compounded and contemporary.
And as this report shows, there’s still a long way to go.
At the same time, we know that our progress cannot only be quantitative – it must be qualitative too.
That means it must be for Aboriginal people and led by Aboriginal people.
That includes our historic journey towards treaty.
Led by the voices of Aboriginal communities – and enshrined in law – we’ve already delivered on those first steps, establishing the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
Now we're ready to take the next important step on this journey.
Our nation’s first formal truth-telling forum, the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission is long overdue. But its work is perhaps more important than ever.
Because without truth – there can be no treaty.
And only by reconciling with our past can we reach for a more just, more equal, more decent future – for all Victorians.
The Hon. James Merlino MP
Acting Premier of Victoria
Message from the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs
I am honoured in my role as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to present the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report 2020.
2020 was an incredibly challenging year for all Victorians, including Victorian Aboriginal communities.
During, and in the aftermath of the devastating 2019-20 bushfires, Aboriginal communities, particularly in East Gippsland, have showed considerable strength and resilience. I commend the important ongoing work that communities are undertaking to support the holistic healing of Country, restore cultural heritage, rebuild community infrastructure and drive economic recovery. These destructive fires have reinforced that now, more than ever before, we must be guided by Aboriginal traditional knowledge and practices with respect to Caring for Country.
Aboriginal organisations and community leaders should also be commended for their exceptional, proactive efforts to mobilise and respond to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on their communities. These efforts have saved countless lives. In particular, the COVID-19 Aboriginal Community Taskforce (Taskforce) and Local Aboriginal COVID-19 Response Networks were instrumental in driving comprehensive, coordinated and culturally safe responses and recovery efforts. As a result, Aboriginal organisations were able to rapidly adapt to remote service delivery and ensure that clients continued to have access to services throughout the pandemic.
Despite these challenges, there were many achievements to celebrate in 2020. This included work to establish Stolen Generations Reparations to right historic wrongs, and progressing work with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria to support future treaty negotiations.
2020 also set the groundwork for establishing a truth and justice process to investigate both historical and ongoing injustices committed against Aboriginal Victorians, across all areas of social, political, cultural and economic life. The announcement of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, the first of its kind anywhere in Australia, represents a significant step forward on Victoria’s path towards treaty. Truth-telling recognises the strength and resilience of Aboriginal people and will ensure their voices are heard and respected.
This Report tells us that while government has come some way in addressing racism and discrimination in its systems and structures, there is still a long way to go. We are committed to this journey, which will bring together our commitments in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and our nation-leading efforts in treaty, truth and justice.
I thank all Aboriginal Elders, Stolen Generations members and families, community members and Aboriginal organisations who have long pushed for these reforms and are now seeing them come to life. As government takes heed of their calls and supports Aboriginal-led decision making, we must ensure that truth-telling, recognition of past wrongs and a focus on a better future for all Victorians is central to this work.
The Hon. Gabrielle Williams
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Purpose of this report
The purpose of the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report (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.’
The report is intended to keep government accountable for improving outcomes for and with Aboriginal Victorians, as well as ongoing work to progress Aboriginal self-determination.
The report sets out how government is working with community to realise the VAAF’s 20 goals across 6 domains:
- Children, family and home
- Learning and skills
- Opportunity and prosperity
- Health and wellbeing
- Justice and safety
- Culture and Country.
For the first time, this report also outlines government’s progress against the VAAF’s 4 self-determination enablers:
- prioritise culture
- address trauma and support healing
- address racism and promote cultural safety
- transfer power and resources to communities.
The report provides a snapshot of how government is embedding self-determination within its systems, processes and services, guided by the Self-Determination Reform Framework.
This report provides community and government with valuable information that allows us to monitor outcomes across all areas of life, as well as the challenges that we still need to address.