Aboriginal communities, not government, to determine how to represent themselves on journey to Treaty
The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria – the democratic voice for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community on the journey to Treaty – has today opened an application process for Traditional Owner groups to apply for a reserved seat on the Assembly.
The Assembly had previously relied on the Government’s protracted process that Traditional Owner groups must undergo to gain formal recognition under legislation, but last year voted to determine its own additional criteria for recognising Traditional Owner groups.
Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung nation, Marcus Stewart, said self-determination was about empowering the Aboriginal community to organise itself and choose its own representatives.
“As the elected Assembly of First Peoples leading the way to Australia’s first-ever Treaty, we want to make sure everyone’s voice is heard and that our cultural ways of doing business are front and centre. We’re not going to be limited by colonial structures and concepts,” said Marcus.
The Assembly has two types of seats – general and reserved. General seats are filled by elected Members during Assembly elections and reserved seats are for representatives from each Traditional Owner group in Victoria with formal recognition under legislation.
Traditional Owner groups without that formal recognition can now apply directly to the Assembly for a reserved seat, provided they meet certain criteria.
Criteria include the group’s application area not being over any land which is already covered by existing reserved seat holders; having significant support amongst Traditional Owners for the area; being an established group or nation; and ongoing connection to Country.
Applications will be considered by the Assembly Chamber and can be approved by a special majority vote.
Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder and Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Geraldine Atkinson, said it is important that the Assembly had moved beyond the parameters originally set by Government.
“Treaty is about putting Aboriginal people in the driver’s seat. Self-determination isn’t just the destination, it’s also how we get there. I’m really pleased that we’ve been able to craft a new pathway to recognition that all involved have backed and we now have an agreed process to settle these matters,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The Convenors of the Yurpa Committee, Gunditjmara woman Tracey Evans and Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta man Trent Nelson, have led this work tirelessly. The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria thanks them for their efforts and dedication in getting us to this stage of the process.