Member for for the Metro region

Nerita Waight

Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri

I am a proud Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri woman and mother of two young boys. I want to be part of creating a future where all our children grow up connected to culture and community, our strengths are celebrated, and our people are thriving.

I was raised by my mother who was a compassionate leader in the community. I was also lucky to have other strong figures in my life who have served as continual inspiration during the many swerves, peaks and lows in my journey thus far. The base of culture, connection and hope they provided meant that I have always sought to use my voice and skills to create the future I want not just for me but for our communities.

As CEO of VALS, I’ve worked to amplify our communities’ voices on important law reforms. The best part of the work is being with the community in forums, yarns and our disaster relief work. We established new services for Aboriginal children and our people who have been mistreated by police and prisons because the community wanted this help.

I will ensure that Treaty works for each of our communities and that all our children can grow up strong and proud.

Member Updates

March 2024 — Meeting of Assembly at Lakes Entrance

I am a Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri woman who was elected as a Member of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and as Treaty Co-Convenor in July 2023. I am also the CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and my work history involves legal practice, law reform and policy. I have also served on the boards of several organisations including Elizabeth Morgan House, Bupup Wilam, and the Australia Community Support Organisation.

Over the last few months my priorities within the Assembly have been:

  • Fulfilling my role as Treaty Co-Convenor to ensure we address the following:
    • The formal recognition of an Aboriginal representative decision-making body (Future Assembly) that has the following functions:
      • decision-making powers
      • advisory functions
      • accountability and oversight responsibilities.
    • Implementation of the key recommendations from Yoorrook Justice Commission including:
      • transformation of the child protection system
      • transformation of the criminal justice system
      • establishing an accountability and oversight mechanism.
    • Ensuring we are measuring our progress against Minimum Standards
    • Looking at options for us to engage with the internal human rights regime
    • Developing a process for us to start developing negotiation positions across five domains that are in line with our priorities of the year but most importantly leverage off the vast knowledge and expertise within our communities, organisations and allies.
  • Fulfilling my Council responsibilities to oversee the processes, activities and relationships of the Assembly alongside fellow Council Members to ensure as a whole the Assembly is effectively and properly run.
  • Contributing to fruitful discussions within the Yoorrook Committee and Yurpa Committee

The most rewarding part of my role as both an Assembly Member and Treaty Co-Convenor has been the ability to engage in a variety of engagement activities across Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria. I have also been privileged to be able to engage in a number of mainstream engagement activities from speeches to just plain old yarning sessions on what Treaty is, what it can offer Aboriginal Victorians and ensuring people understand that it isn’t a choice between Treaty and Close the Gap but that it’s both – Treaty is the pathway to closing the gaps for good. In engagements within Aboriginal Communities the messages have been consistent – there is fear that the Opposition’s refusal to participate in Treaty is not only premature but also destructive to the Treaty process, we need to do more to ensure that the State responds to the urgent recommendations put forth in its interim report as these matters cannot wait. We need to start working with communities to develop our negotiation positions, we need to support communities through the self-determination fund so they can be supported to be Treaty ready as Traditional Owner groups are, we need to ensure that there are adequate protections for our human rights; embedding accountability and oversight is incredibly important in any Treaty, and lastly, Treaty is our way of honouring our ancestors’ fight for justice and ensuring our future generations are not merely surviving but soaring amongst the stars.

Part of my engagement activities have included visiting our various prisons within Victoria. This has not been easy as you feel as though you have very little to offer when our mob inside have so much to offer us in terms of insights, solutions but also resilience. In these spaces we have consistently heard that not only is Treaty embraced but that they see it as a path to achieving abolition and ensuring that the cycle of incarceration can be broken with Aboriginal-led solutions that are well resourced and are not about doing the bare minimum but are about changing lives and creating supported pathways to success for mob. We have also heard continuing concerns about the lack of appropriate healthcare and mental health support, lack of support to achieve parole and a lack of adequate housing and transition supports. I look forward to continuing these engagements over 2024 and having meaningful discussions on what their views are on a range of subject matter to inform our negotiations with the State.

I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to advocate and support Aboriginal Victorians as we journey towards a Treaty. This role has been far from easy but what has made it special is the passion, ingenuity and deep cultural knowledge that has been so willing shared by Victorian Aboriginal Communities. This path will not be easy and there will be times we don’t agree and times we do – I hope that during this we can maintain the ability to have open and honest conversations.

Inaugural Speech of the Assembly's Second Term