We acknowledge Victoria’s First Peoples and their ongoing strength in practising 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 respect to their Elders past and present.
We recognise that from time immemorial, First Peoples in Victoria have practised their law and lore, customs and languages, and nurtured Country through their spiritual, cultural, material and economic connections to land, water and resources.
We acknowledge the long-lasting, far-reaching and intergenerational consequences of the dispossession of First Peoples of their Country are a direct result of colonisation and the establishment of the State of Victoria. The reality of colonisation involved establishing Victoria with the specific intent of excluding Aboriginal people and their laws, cultures, customs and traditions, including through horrific violence perpetuated at individual, societal and systemic levels. This history, and the systems it gave rise to, continue to harm First Peoples today. It is only through true Aboriginal self-determination that we can begin to right the wrongs of the past.
We acknowledge the strength and resilience of First Peoples in the face of historical and ongoing injustices, and the survival of their living cultures, knowledge and traditions.
Language is important and can change over time, and words can have different meanings for different people.
We recognise the diversity of Aboriginal peoples, communities and cultures throughout Victoria. While the terms ‘Koorie’ or ‘Koori’ are commonly used to describe Aboriginal people of southeast Australia. Unless overwise stated, we have used the term ‘Aboriginal’ to include all people of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent who live in Victoria.
The glossary includes a list of acronyms and other terminology used in the Report.
Message from the Premier
The foundation for a fairer Victoria starts with a fairer future for First Peoples. And if we are to achieve genuine equality for Aboriginal people, action must be led by Aboriginal people.
Victoria is the first jurisdiction in Australia to action all three elements of the Uluru statement from the Heart: Voice, Treaty, and Truth. Over the course of the last year, Victoria’s work to progress Aboriginal self-determination has continued – and we’re not slowing down.
The Yoorrook Justice Commission’s landmark inquiry into historic and ongoing injustices experienced by First Peoples in Victoria goes on. Many of these truths will be hard to hear. But listening is the foundation of all learning, and if we want to grow – as people, as governments, as states and as a nation – then that’s where we have to start.
For without Truth, there can be no Treaty – and without Treaty, there can be no justice.
With all Treaty elements now agreed between the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and the State, Treaty negotiations will soon commence. And as they do, First Peoples communities and leaders will lead the way – holding, shaping, and building their own future.
At a time of such significant change, the 2022 Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report focuses our attention on the lived experiences of Aboriginal Victorians. It shows that progress has been made – and that there’s much more to do.
As we keep working towards true self-determination, we’ll keep putting Aboriginal voices front and centre. First Nations people already know what’s best for their families, their communities and their culture. They just need governments to hear them – not to tell them how it’s going to be. And nothing less will do.
The Hon Daniel Andrews MP, Premier
Message from the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples
I am pleased to present the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report 2022 (Report) in my role as Minister for Treaty and First Peoples.
Last year was momentous for the relationship between the State and First Peoples. Landmark legislation establishing the Treaty Authority passed through Parliament and the Victorian Government and First Peoples Assembly of Victoria (First Peoples’ Assembly) jointly established the Treaty Negotiation Framework and Self-Determination Fund. With all Treaty elements now agreed and soon established, Victoria is on track to embark on the next phase of the Treaty process and commence formal negotiations.
As Victoria advances towards Treaty, this Report acknowledges the progress we have made to date against measures in the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023 (VAAF), Victoria’s overarching and ambitious framework for Aboriginal affairs, and reflects on where we have fallen short. In addition to tracking the Government’s performance against commitments in the VAAF, this Report provides an update on our progress against the Self-Determination Reform Framework and the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
I am pleased by the positive signs shown in this Report, particularly in education and economic measures. The number of Aboriginal business owner-managers has increased significantly and median household incomes for Aboriginal Victorians continue to rise.
While these achievements should be acknowledged, this Report also details outcomes that demonstrate the ongoing impacts of colonisation and systemic racism. The outcomes reported in Domains 1 and 5 of this Report paint a particularly troubling picture of continued overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the child protection and criminal justice systems, an issue at the centre of the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s (Commission) recent inquiry. As the Government stated in its evidence before the Commission, we can and must do more to address these ongoing injustices. The 2023/2024 State Budget invests more than $475 million over five years to directly support Aboriginal Victorians, with $140 million to reform the children and families system to reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in child protection and family services.
The Government remains steadfast in its commitment to listening to First Peoples, engaging cooperatively and transparently with the Commission, and continuing to walk with the First Peoples’ Assembly on the path to Treaty, so that First Peoples can build a self-determined future. I look forward to continuing this journey.
The Hon. Gabrielle Williams, Minister for Minister for Treaty and First Peoples
About this report
The purpose of the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report (Report) is for the Victorian Government to annually report on progress against the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018 - 2023 (VAAF), the Self-Determination Reform Framework (SDRF) and the Victorian Closing the Gap Implementation Plan 2021-2023 (Victoria’s Implementation Plan). The Report is an outcomes measurement and accountability tool that provides valuable information about progress and challenges that still need to be addressed.
The VAAF is the guiding framework in Aboriginal affairs and the Report outlines progress towards achieving the vision of the VAAF:
‘that all Aboriginal Victorian people, families and communities are safe, resilient, thriving and living culturally rich lives’.
The Report sets out how government is working to realise the VAAF’s 20 goals across six domains:
- Children, family & home
- Learning & skills
- Opportunity & prosperity
- Heath & wellbeing
- Justice & safety
- Culture & Country.
The Report also outlines ongoing work across government to progress Aboriginal self-determination in line with the SDRF. Under the SDRF, Victorian Government departments and agencies are continuing to reform internal processes, practices and policies to better enable Aboriginal self-determination. This includes the Victorian Government’s journey towards Truth and Treaty, in partnership with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (First Peoples’ Assembly). Treaty in Victoria is the embodiment of Aboriginal self-determination and provides a path to negotiate the transfer of power and resources for First Peoples to control matters which impact their lives.
Victoria’s priorities under the VAAF and the SDRF are complimented by our commitments under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement). This is the fourth annual Report against the VAAF since its release in 2018 and for the second year, the Report embeds dedicated reporting on progress in Victoria to implement the National Agreement through Victoria’s Implementation Plan. The Report showcases the most up-to-date available data for the years 2021 and 2022 across the 111 measures in the VAAF. As detailed in the About Data section of the Report, the latest year of available data varies due to the inconsistent frequency of data collection across a range of data sources. Victoria is pursuing more ambitious and comprehensive outcome-focused goals under the VAAF and Victoria’s Implementation Plan, over and above targets set under the National Agreement.
The Report was developed through a coordinated and collaborative approach with input from Victorian Government departments and agencies. Many Aboriginal Governance Forums and the Koorie Caucus of the Closing the Gap Partnership Forum also provided input. All feedback has been considered, however, not all feedback was adopted due to timing, scope and the period of reporting the Report covers.
Next year’s Report will be the last against the current VAAF, SDRF and Victoria’s Implementation Plan, as all expire in 2023. The Government will consult with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (First Peoples’ Assembly) in relation to the next VAAF and SDRF, and the First Peoples’ Assembly and the Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum in relation to the next Victorian Implementation Plan, including in relation to strong engagement and accountability processes.
About the data
Machinery of Government changes
The 2022 State election took place during the reporting period. Following the election, several Machinery of Government (MOG) changes came into effect in January 2023. As a result, responsibility for some portfolios and specific actions has shifted between government departments. Depending on the context, reporting may refer to the names of former or current government departments.
Data collection and limitations
This Report provides the latest available information about how the Victorian Government is progressing against the six domains and 111 measures in the VAAF. The data reported provides an assessment of progress for 2022 and previous years based on available data. Historical data may have been updated since the last edition of the Report.
Data has been sourced from a range of State and Commonwealth administrative collections and surveys. The latest year of available data varies across the Report due to the inconsistent frequency of collection of survey data. Several measures do not have updated data available for inclusion in this Report. Updated data for these measures will be included in future reports.
Some of the data reported against the VAAF measures does not directly align with the measure definition due to the limitations of available data.
Due to the large array of data sources used to calculate progress against each measure, the majority of rate calculations used in this Report are crude rates. Where age standardised rates have been used, this has been noted in the Report.
Closing the Gap data
Summaries of how Victoria is tracking nationally for the Closing the Gap targets are included on the overview page for each relevant VAAF goal. Since the 2021 Report, a new year of data has been released for nine targets (across eight socioeconomic outcome areas). Over time, as more data becomes available, the monitoring of the targets will provide greater insight into what progress is being made.
For some targets (such as Target 1 and Target 14), reporting is only for those jurisdictions which have adequate levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification. Future reporting aims to include additional disaggregation for all states and territories.
As Victoria is pursuing more ambitious and comprehensive goals under the VAAF than the targets set out under the National Agreement, many VAAF goals and measures do not have a counterpoint under the National Agreement for direct comparison.
Data on Victoria's progress towards the 2031 Closing the Gap targets can be found at www.pc.gov.au/closing-the-gap-data/dashboard.
VAAF Data Dashboard
In line with the Victorian Government’s commitment in the VAAF to improve data access, transparency and narration, an interactive VAAF Data Dashboard has been developed.
The VAAF Data Dashboard can be accessed via the First Peoples – State Relations website at www.firstpeoplesrelations.vic.gov.au/report-data-dashboard. It offers a user-friendly platform to access detailed state level data. It also includes disaggregated data at sub-state level where available. While this Report is limited to the data available during the reporting cycle, the VAAF Data Dashboard will be updated to report on measures when new data become available.
Changes in performance for some measures between 2020 and 2022 may be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indigenous Data Sovereignty
The Victorian Government acknowledges the critical importance of Indigenous Data Sovereignty and has committed to this as a potential subject for negotiation in Statewide and Traditional Owner treaties under the Treaty Negotiation Framework.
Victorian Aboriginal Population
Between the 2016 and 2021 Census of Australian Population and Housing (Census), the number of people who self-identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in Victoria grew from 47,788 to 65,646 (1.0 per cent of the total Victorian population).
Based on the 2021 Census, 50 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians were under the age of 25.
Based on the 2021 Census, 50.5 per cent of Aboriginal Victorians lived in the greater Melbourne area. The Local Government Areas with the highest density Aboriginal population are located around regional centres, such as Greater Geelong, Greater Bendigo, Greater Shepparton and Mildura.