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Culture and Country

The richness and diversity of Aboriginal history and culture in Victoria and the resilience and strength of Aboriginal communities and peoples, is something for all Victorians to celebrate.

Our shared commitment

The promotion of the rights and responsibilities under section 19(2) of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.

Victorian Aboriginal communities and peoples are culturally diverse, with rich and varied languages, traditions, and histories. Aboriginal Victorians hold distinct cultural rights, including the right to maintain their spiritual, material, and economic relationship with their traditional lands and waters and continue to strengthen and grow with the resurgence of language, lore, and cultural knowledge.

The richness and diversity of Aboriginal history and culture in Victoria, and the resilience and strength of past and present Aboriginal communities and peoples is something for all Victorians to acknowledge and celebrate.

Goal 18: Aboriginal land, water and cultural rights are realised


Most measures under Goal 18 have continued to improve. Further improvement is expected in 2022-23.

Advancement of the Treaty process and the uptake and promotion of initiatives are seeing Aboriginal land, water and cultural rights being increasingly realised.

Data note

Data for Measure 18.1.4 Number of Whole of Country Plans published was sourced from the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owners Corporations (FVTOC) prior to 2021.

FVTOC no longer collect data for this measure.

Goal 18 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets

Outcome 15: People maintain a distinctive cultural, spiritual, physical and economic relationship with their land and waters.

  • Target 15a: By 2030, a 15% increase in Australia’s land mass subject to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests.
  • Target 15b: By 2030, a 15% increase in areas covered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests in the sea.

Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally

Target 15a

In 2022, 4,138,356 square kilometres of the land mass of Australia were subject to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights or interests.

Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the land mass target shows good improvement. In Victoria, there has been some improvement since the baseline year.

Target 15b

In 2022, 91,111 square kilometres of the sea country of Australia were subject to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s rights or interests.

Nationally, based on progress from the baseline, the sea country target shows improvement but is not on track to be met. In Victoria, there has been some improvement

18.1 Increase the recognition and enjoyment of Aboriginal land, water and cultural heritage rights

Measure 18.1.1 Area of Crown land with native title determinations and/or Recognition and Settlement Agreements

In 2021-22, native title was recognised across 14,899 square kilometres of land (consistent with the area of land recognised in 2020-21) and 50,672 square kilometres of land was recognised under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 agreements (up by 10,540 square kilometres since 2020-21).

Measure 18.1.2 Work of the State in advancing the treaty process

Victoria is continuing to lead the nation in its journey towards Treaty. On 20 October 2022, the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples signed off on the final two Treaty elements – the Treaty Negotiation Framework and Self-Determination Fund. The Treaty Negotiation Framework sets out the ground rules for negotiating treaties to ensure a fair Treaty process, while the Self-Determination Fund provides a resource for First Peoples to ensure fair and equitable Treaty negotiations. This is a significant step towards Treaty and the transfer of power and resources to First Peoples so they can control the policies and programs that affect their lives. With all Treaty elements now agreed and established by the State and First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, both parties are set to embark on the next phase of the landmark Treaty process and commence formal Treaty negotiations, which will occur shortly after the opening of the Treaty Authority’s Negotiations Database. The Treaty process will also be informed by the ongoing work and reports of the Yoorrook Justice Commission.

Measure 18.1.3 Number of Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) that have submitted a notice of intention to enter into an Aboriginal cultural heritage land management agreement

An avenue for recognising Aboriginal land, water and cultural heritage rights is through the establishment of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Land Management Agreements (ACHLMAs). ACHLMAs are designed to facilitate a proactive, holistic approach to managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage and landscape. As of 31 December 2022, 3 RAPs have entered into an ACHLMA and 7 submitted an intention to enter an ACHLMA.

Measure 18.1.5 Number of Joint Management Plans and area of land covered

There are 3 joint management plans with three Traditional Owner groups in Victoria, covering a total of 1,225.75 square kilometres and spanning 17 parks and reserves:

  • Gunaikurnai: joint management plan over ten parks and reserves in the Gippsland region
  • Dja Dja Wurrung: joint management plan for six parks and reserves in the Central West
  • Yorta Yorta: joint management plan for Barmah National Park in the Riverina region.

Joint management plans realise the shared aspirations and responsibilities of Traditional Owners and the State for a new approach to managing Country that acknowledges the inherent obligation of Traditional Owners to care for their Country.

The plans are developed by a Traditional Owner Land Management Board comprised of either a majority or exclusively Traditional Owners.

Traditional Owner-led governance, provided by the respective Board, ensures Country is at the core of decision-making regarding the management of jointly managed areas.

Managing our country – Parks Victoria – Raymond Island

Visitors to Gippsland Lakes Reserve can now experience a better understanding of Gunaikurnai culture with a newly installed 1.7km walk through the beautiful landscape of Raymond Island on Tatungalung Country. The walk passes through coastal banksia forest and features a yarning circle and interpretive signage that reflects the knowledge held by Traditional Owners, with a focus on traditionally used plants.

Accessible only by ferry, Raymond Island is one of ten parks and reserves jointly managed between the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) and Parks Victoria.

The Gunaikurnai have a deep connection with Raymond Island and the Gippsland Lakes. The lake waters in particular were abundant in food and resources and enabled people to travel to the open ocean and up and down the coast.

The upgraded nature trail connects with the existing Koala Walk that goes through the township and into the edge of the park. In addition to upgrading and connecting existing tracks and visitor carparking, improved and directional signs has been installed to make the track easy to follow.

GLaWAC were the lead partner for this project. Work to upgrade the track was completed by the GLaWAC Natural Resource Management Team.

Measure 18.1.6 Number of cultural burns conducted

In 2021/22 (1 July 2021 to 30 June 2022), Traditional Owners conducted thirteen cultural burns with the support of Victorian Government agencies. This represents an increase from four burns in 2018/19 but a slight decrease from fifteen in 2020/21. DEECA continues to work to build stronger partnerships with several TOs, assisting many with the planning, mapping and approvals currently required to deliver Cultural Burns on public land. During 2021/22, many of the Traditional Owner (TO) groups have grown their staffing levels and capacity as well as participating in a range of training. These activities will assist Traditional Owner groups to increase the number of Cultural Burns and to plan and deliver programs that deliver their cultural aspirations.

Goal 19: Aboriginal culture and language are supported and celebrated


Measures under Goal 19 have continued to improve.

There continues to be many examples of recognising and celebrating the unique status, rights, cultures, and history of Aboriginal communities in Victoria.

Data note

All measures under this goal are featured although no recent data is available from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) for Measure 19.1.1 Participation in community events which celebrate Aboriginal culture.

Goal 19 directly aligns with the following Closing the Gap Outcomes and Targets

Outcome 16: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and languages are strong, supported and flourishing.

  • Target 16: By 2031, there is a sustained increase in number and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken.

Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally

Nationally in 2018-19, there were 123 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages being spoken (with 14 considered strong).

This target relies on data from the National Indigenous Languages Survey. No new data since the baseline year of 2018-19 was available at the time of reporting.

State and territory data are not available.

19.1 Support the preservation, promotion and practice of culture and languages

Measure 19.1.1 Participation in community events which celebrate Aboriginal culture

Strong Roots for Our Futures Program (Strong Roots)

Strong Roots has enabled Traditional Owner groups without formal recognition to deliver activities that achieve healing, build relationships, celebrate culture, enable connection with Country, engage young people and strengthen governance. Strong Roots was co-designed in 2019 with over 120 Traditional Owners of the four regions where there isn’t yet formal recognition: Mid North West, Central North, North East and Far East Gippsland.

To date, Strong Roots has supported ten family gatherings, one of which had over 150 members across four generations from one family, who came together for a five-day camp to celebrate culture and honour the memory of their ancestors. One attendee explained:

“I’m not sure I can put into words what the gathering meant to me, my Elders and my family…. There was so much love, laughter, healing and connection that occurred and was very much needed.”

Strong Roots has also supported thirteen small projects, including a possum skin cloak making workshop. Following the workshop, the Traditional Owner project manager explained:

[The workshop] was important for so many reasons, it’s important to bring people together, to heal community, for cultural healing, re-establishing our cultural practices and just spending time together on Country. The most important thing though, is the real value of spending time with your family outside of sad times… at funerals.

Traditional Owners who have been engaged through Strong Roots report that the program has supported development of skills required to work with their communities and engage with government, such as being able to connect community, create a safe space, support community to establish healing relationships, and achieve group aspirations.

Measure 19.1.2 Investment in Aboriginal language and culture revitalisation programs

Connectedness to culture and community strengthens individual and collective identities, and promotes positive self-esteem, resilience, and improved outcomes for Aboriginal people.

While cultural identity is central to the lives of Aboriginal Victorians, all Victorians should celebrate and take pride in Aboriginal culture and language.

The below table outlines standalone Aboriginal language and culture revitalisation initiatives supported by the Victorian Government. Significant government investment in language and culture revitalisation is also embedded in many of the foundational programs and services delivered by ACCOs, such as kinship family finding, return to Country and cultural camps.



Koorie Heritage Trust

The Victorian Government funds the Koorie Heritage Trust to support its operations; delivery of the Koorie Family History Service for members of the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal Victorians in custody and members of the Koorie Community; and the retention and revival of Victorian Aboriginal history and language through the Koorie Oral History Project.

Connecting Home Limited

The Victorian Government funds Connecting Home Limited to support its operations and provide case management services, counselling and healing initiatives for members of the Stolen Generations and their families.

Koorie Youth Council

The Victorian Government funds the Koorie Youth Council to support its operations and deliver activities that engage with, and advance the rights and representation of, Aboriginal young people, including the annual Koorie Youth Summit.

Cultural Markers Project

The Victorian Government is funding the Cultural Markers project, which aims to increase visibility of Aboriginal culture in inner Melbourne. The project is being developed in collaboration with Traditional Owners and seeks to create digital cultural markers that can be viewed through augmented reality on a smart device at a number of cultural sites across Melbourne’s CBD.

Reconciliation Victoria

The Victorian Government funds Reconciliation Victoria to support its operations and deliver a range of activities and products that promote reconciliation, including the Maggolee website and Reconciliation Week initiatives.

Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust (Trust)

The Victorian Government funds the Trust to deliver municipal and essential services to its residents. This funding supports the management of Trust’s land, water and built environment, as well as the preservation of cultural heritage.

Geographic Names Victoria (GNV) The Victorian Government funds GNV to oversee the naming and registration of roads, features and localities in Victoria by administering the Geographic Place Names Act 1998. GNV formally engages with Traditional Owners to support and progress this work.
Our Language Matters – Aboriginal place names workshops The Victorian Government funds the delivery of Aboriginal-led workshops to recognise the importance of Aboriginal place names, strengthen partnerships with TOs, and increase the number of Aboriginal place names throughout Victoria. In 2022 a workshop was held on Bunurong Country, with involvement from Traditional Owners and over 40 attendees.
Naming Authority training The Victorian Government is supporting municipal Councils, government departments and agencies to understand the process around using Traditional Owner languages.
VICNAMES – sound files for Traditional Owner place names

The Victorian Government funded enhancements to VICNAMES, which holds over 200,000 road and over 45,000 place names. Functionality has been added to enable future reporting of the number of roads and places named in Traditional Owner languages. Sound file functionality has also been added to assist with pronunciation of place names, with recordings spoken by Traditional Owners.

Goal 20: Racism is eliminated


Measures under Goal 20 have worsened.

Concerningly, there has been an increase in experiences of racial prejudice and an increase in the perceived prevalence of racist attitudes for Aboriginal Australians.

Data note

All measures under this goal are featured. However, the data from the Australian Reconciliation Barometer is Australia wide, rather than specific to Victoria.

Closing the Gap – Relevant Outcomes and Targets for Goal 20

The National Agreement does not contain outcomes and targets that align with this VAAF goal. Victoria is pursuing more ambitious and comprehensive goals under the VAAF, which are reported on in this chapter and the Data Dashboard.

Closing the Gap – How Victoria is tracking nationally

Not applicable.

20.1 Address and eliminate racism

Remembrance Day service

In 2021, the Shrine of Remembrance introduced a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country for the first time at its annual Remembrance Day service. This was continued in 2022 when Bunurong elder, Uncle Mik Edwards, performed a smoking ceremony and offered a Welcome to Country, lighting eucalyptus leaves and other native flora from the eternal flame in the Shrine’s forecourt before bathing guests and grounds in cleansing smoke.

The smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country acknowledges that for many years the service of Aboriginal people was not adequately recognised, and that Aboriginal people have served in every conflict and peacekeeping mission involving Australia since Federation, including peacetime service.

This is in addition to the Victorian Aboriginal Remembrance Service, which has been held annually at the Shrine of Remembrance since 2006 as part of National Reconciliation Week.

Measure 20.1.1 Proportion of Aboriginal people who report having experienced racism in the previous 6 months

In the 2022 Australian Reconciliation Barometer survey, 60 per cent of Aboriginal respondents reported experiencing racial prejudice in the past six months, compared to 25 per cent of general community respondents. It is concerning that this has been trending upwards since 2016. However, it is not possible to determine if this is due to more instances of racism occurring, or greater awareness, or more reporting. The survey does not include disaggregated results for Victoria.

Measure 20.1.2 Prevalence of racist attitudes in Australia

In the 2022 Australian Reconciliation Barometer survey, 57 per cent of Aboriginal respondents and 42 per cent of non-Aboriginal respondents answered agree or strongly agree to the prompt ‘Australia is a racist country’. This is compared to 48 per cent of Aboriginal and 35 per cent of non-Aboriginal respondents who responded so in 2014. The survey does not include disaggregated results for Victoria.

Belief that Australia is a racist country has grown since 2014. Overall, this suggests that Australians either believe Australia is becoming more racist or are becoming more aware of existing racism. The increased awareness of discrimination against First Nations Australians and other racial minorities due to social media and the growth of the Bla(c)k Lives Matter movement is likely to have informed the results.

Aboriginal Flag Permanently on the West Gate Bridge

It was announced at the end of NAIDOC Week 2022 that the Aboriginal Flag will be flown on the West Gate Bridge permanently alongside the Australian Flag.

Since 2019, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were flown on rotation atop the West Gate Bridge only during Reconciliation and NAIDOC Weeks.

In June 2022, the Department of Transport (now Department of Transport and Planning - DTP) worked closely with the First People’s Assembly of Victoria, the Minister of Treaty and First Peoples and the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation on whose Country the West Gate Bridge is located. All supported the permanent installation of the Aboriginal Flag in preparation for the raising of the flag during NAIDOC week.

The installation of additional flagpoles will form part of future investigations which will ensure that the bridge remains structurally safe.

Flying the Aboriginal Flag acknowledges and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, history, heritage and culture. This is now a permanent fixture in the Victorian skyline.

Domain 6: Victorian Government Investment and Action

The Victorian Government is committed to promoting self-determination, Treaty and Truth. Supporting Traditional Owners is a critical element of that.

The key Aboriginal Governance Forum for realising outcomes in this Domain is the Caring for Country Partnership Forum.

Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games

Recognition of and respect for Aboriginal culture is embedded in the Commonwealth Games work program, including the approach to inclusivity. The Office of Commonwealth Games is respectfully acknowledging the different Aboriginal histories and cultures through the design of infrastructure. This program of works has included Traditional Owners as key partners in the design work.

Native Title, Recognition Settlement Agreements and Natural Resource Agreements are being considered in detail in the planning and design of villages and venues, with our delivery partners, to ensure full compliance.

ACCOs, along with Traditional Owners, will be included in consultations and discussions around the legacy of the Commonwealth Games and are actively participating in advising on the culture programs through the First Peoples Leadership Group.

State sport infrastructure

Traditional owners are consulted in the design of state sport infrastructure, and, where opportunities identified, the naming of new facilities. An example is the Melbourne Park Stage 2 Redevelopment which consulted local traditional owners on naming key elements of the project including the pedestrian footbridge linking the city and Melbourne Park, named Tanderrum Bridge following a public naming competition.

State-wide network of Aboriginal Water Officers

Since 2016, the Department of Environment Energy, and Climate Action (DEECA) has funded Traditional Owners to take an active role in the management of the State’s water resources. Aboriginal Water Officers play a significant role in promoting informed discussion to support Aboriginal values and uses through Victoria’s existing water resource planning and management processes.

AWOs provide a dedicated water expert on Country that supports Traditional Owners to self-determine how they partner with the water sector. AWOs work on local projects and programs and support the Victorian Government to better understand and incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into water resource planning. AWOs deliver projects in partnership with Traditional Owner Corporations, Aboriginal communities, Catchment Management Authorities, and Water Corporations.

The Aboriginal Water Program, in partnership with AWOs, established the Aboriginal Water Officer Network as a forum to share knowledge and practices. It is administered by AWOs to provide support for each other and strengthen capability to participate in the water industry. In 2022, there were 25 funded water officers employed in 19 Aboriginal community organisations, four Catchment Management Authorities and one peak body.

Cultural Fire Grants

The Cultural Fire Grants Program supports Aboriginal Victorians to care for Country and reinvigorate Traditional Owner-led cultural land and fire management practices in line with the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy.

During this reporting period the first round of the grants were finalised, resulting in 10 Traditional Owner Corporations (TOCs) sharing a total of $6.2 million in funding. The grants and project plans are a critical step to enable many of the TOCs to start to develop plans and enact their Cultural Burning aspirations. Many of the groups, especially those who have secured the larger grants, have identified the employment of dedicated Cultural Burning staff, increased training and capacity building activities and the procurement of firefighting equipment and vehicles as some of the key areas for investment.

Renewable energy grants program

The Traditional Owner Renewable Energy Program (TOREP) is the Victorian Government’s first tailored renewable energy grant program for Traditional Owner Corporations. It is providing up to $100,000 to each Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) who applied, addressing energy issues relevant to their individual community and corporation needs. TOREP supports RAPs to decide how they would like to participate in Victoria’s renewable energy transformation and transition to clean energy.

DEECA worked in partnership with RAPs towards capacity-building initiatives such as the development of renewable energy roadmaps, implementing solar and battery systems and feasibility reviews to adopt energy efficiency measures. This work is helping communities review their energy usage and find ways to cut power costs. One project is successfully completed, and eight projects are currently underway to displace fossil fuels, advance reconciliation and enable the self-determination in renewable energy.

Transport – Regional Chapters

Regional Chapters are local co-designed implementation plans between transport regions and Aboriginal community stakeholders and Victorian Traditional Owners. They are designed to capture local priorities, remove barriers for the Aboriginal communities to access transport services and ensure they are culturally safe and supported when commuting.

In 2022, the Department of Transport (now Department of Transport and Planning - DTP) held three Metro Region Regional Chapter roundtables with departmental staff and Aboriginal Community organisations. The aim of the roundtables was to provide an overview of the transport portfolio, promote the purpose of the Regional Chapters, capture Aboriginal community perspectives and establish an ongoing mechanism for co-design and co-governance.

Transport Portfolio - RAP Partnership Agreements

In 2022, work continued to co-design pilot partnership agreements with three Registered Aboriginal Parties: Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Yorta Yorta Nations Aboriginal Corporation and Taungurung Land and Waters Corporation. This included considerations of their roles regarding transport activities occurring on their traditional lands and waters. All agreements are tailored to respond to incorporate particular needs and priorities of the different RAPs and designed separate to legislative obligations of both RAPs and the transport portfolio.

Yorta Yorta Welcome to Country signs have been replaced and three new signs have been installed on Yorta Yorta Country since the commencement of partnership discussions with the transport portfolio. Funding for this initiative for all three signs totalled $99,830.

Melbourne Art Trams

For the second year Melbourne Art Trams made a return featuring original artwork from local First Nations artists a collaboration between RISING, DTP, Yarra Trams and Creative Victoria. The 2022 theme ‘Unapologetically Blak’ required designs to respond to multiple layers of history, country, diverse community and connections across Victoria. Members of DTP’s Aboriginal Staff Network were involved in shortlisting artists, with trams showcased on the network for 12 months. DTP has provided funding of $95,150 (incl. GST) for each year of the program.

Artists include Lin Onus – original artwork from 1991 (Yorta Yorta), Louise Moore (Wamba), Patricia Mckean (Gundijtmara/Kirrae Wurrong), Dr Paola Balla (Wemba-Wemba/Gundijtmara), Tegan Murdock (Burapa), and Darcy McConnell / Enoki (Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung).

Nation-building Resource Pool

$5.835 million in flexible funding was available under the Nation-building Resource Pool (Resource Pool) from 2020 to 2024 for Traditional Owners with formal recognition across Victoria to engage in nation-building activities and prepare for Treaty. The Resource Pool is funded by the Victorian Government, delivered by the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations, and overseen in partnership with First Nations Legal and Research Services.

Up to $530,000 in funding is available for each Traditional Owner group with formal recognition, on a non-competitive and equitable basis. The Resource Pool is underpinned by the principle of self-determination with funded projects designed and led by each Traditional Owner group. This recognises that Traditional Owners are best placed to decide how to invest resources to achieve their nation’s goals.

$4.16 million is now allocated to eight Traditional Owner groups, of which $2.76 million was allocated in 2022. Examples of projects funded by the Resource Pool include:

  • Djaara, representing the Dja Dja Wurrung people of central Victoria, aims to enter into a Treaty or Treaty-like agreement with Local Government Authorities within the area over which it has a Recognition and Settlement agreement with the Victorian Government. These agreements will enable joint decisions regarding Djaara landscape, employment opportunities, and self-determination. Djaara also aims to re-engage and re-energise Dja Dja Wurrung people following the isolation and disconnection experienced during the Coronavirus pandemic.
  • Barengi Gadjin Land Council, representing the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples in North-west Victoria, is bringing families together on Country to strengthen connection and kinship, as well as undertaking a Wergaia language revival project. The project has a strong focus on re-engaging Elders and youth, and facilitating intergenerational knowledge sharing and connection.

Supporting cultural pride and identity among Aboriginal Victorians through significant dates

NAIDOC week 2022 was celebrated in July with the theme of ‘Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up!’. Narrm (Melbourne) was the Focus City for the National NAIDOC Award Ceremony for the first time in 10 years. The NAIDOC State Reception and the Victorian NAIDOC Ball honoured and paid tribute to Aboriginal culture, history and achievements.