Inaugural Co-Chairs of First Peoples’ Assembly elected

Marcus Stewart and Geraldine Atkinson have been elected as the inaugural Co-Chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.

Mr Stewart and Ms Atkinson were elected in a vote of members during the inaugural Assembly meeting at the Victorian Parliament today.

Mr Stewart is a proud Taungurung man. He is currently the CEO of the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations.

Ms Atkinson is a proud Bangerang woman. She is currently the President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association, and has decades of experience across Aboriginal community organisations.

“It is a tremendous honour to be in this role. There is a huge amount of work ahead, but also a tremendous opportunity for badly-needed structural change,” said Mr Stewart.

“I want every person in Victoria to know that Treaties are the right thing to do, and will bring about change for the better,” he said.

“There has never been another organisation like the Assembly, ever. This is history in the making, and it is a privilege to be part of it,” said Ms Atkinson.

“Today, of all days, I am thinking of our old people, who fought so hard for our rights. They are what got us to where we are today,” she said.

The following members (as well as the Co-Chairs) were elected as the Executive.

  • Rueben Berg
  • Tracey Evans
  • Melissa Jones
  • Jamie Lowe
  • Troy McDonald
  • Ngarra Murray
  • Trent Nelson

The Co-Chairs and the Directors have been elected for a 3-year term, as the Assembly begins its work including:

  • A framework for Treaty negotiations
  • The Treaty Authority (an independent umpire)
  • An Elders’ Voice within the Assembly

The Assembly is be the voice for Aboriginal people in the next phase of the Treaty process.

The Assembly’s executive elected at the first meeting includes (from left) Jamie Lowe, Rueben Berg, Ngarra Murray, Co-Chair Geraldine Atkinson, Trent Nelson, Co-Chair Marcus Stewart, Troy McDonald, Tracey Evans and Melissa Jones.

It will represent communities in setting – along with government – the ‘ground rules’ for negotiations, including how Treaties can be agreed in Victoria. It will also help set up the Treaty Authority, which will be an independent umpire through the Treaty process.

The Assembly is made up of 32 seats – 21 determined in a vote of Aboriginal communities in September and October, and 11 reserved for of the 11 formally recognised Traditional Owner groups.