Assembly Meeting, Melbourne Naarm — March 2023

Mar 17, 2023

The elected Members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria gathered in Naarm Melbourne on Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country on 16 and 17 March for their final meeting before the upcoming Assembly Elections to be held in May.

It was the final Assembly Meeting this term, ahead of the Assembly Elections to be held 13 May to 3 June.

Day two of the meeting program included a Live Broadcast of speeches from Assembly Members.

After being welcomed by Aunty Irene Morris and participating in a smoking ceremony, Members got straight to their key order of business for the morning: determining the Assembly’s position on the federal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

Following a presentation and discussion with Senator Patrick Dodson, Chair of Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the Members voted to formally endorse the YES vote and committed to playing a role to help First Peoples in Victoria better understand the proposal and make sure their views help inform the design and development of the Voice.

Assembly Co-Chair, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said a Voice to Parliament would be an important step toward a Treaty at a national level.

“Having a democratic voice for the Aboriginal community has worked so well for us here in Victoria that we want to help make sure mob all over the country can also benefit from something similar at a national level. Any step forward that gives us a greater say in the decisions that affect our lives is a step worth taking, we’ve seen that here on our journey towards Treaty.”

Aunty Geraldine

With the path forward on the federal Voice agreed upon, Members turned back to local Treaty business.

In another exciting step towards Treaty here in Victoria, Members finalised a joint statement to declare the Assembly’s intention to negotiate the statewide Treaty. The Statement of Intent outlines how the Assembly will ensure it meets the standards set by the Treaty Negotiation Framework. 

Assembly Co-Chair, proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the Statement of Intent was like the Assembly’s “job application to Community” to show it would be ready to negotiate statewide Treaty.

“We’ve been entrusted by our communities to find a path for the important and long overdue journey towards Treaty. This statement is the map that will guide the next Elected Members to complete the journey and get Treaty done. Treaty will benefit everyone who calls this state home.”

Marcus Stewart

Other items on the agenda for the final Chamber Meeting included:

  • Adopting proposed changes to Assembly Region borders and the number of Members per region, which responded to the population increases determined by the 2021 Census.
  • Adopting the proposal to establish the Elders’ Voice as a committee of the Assembly.
  • Adopting the Youth Voice Guiding Document.  
  • updates from the Self-Determination Fund
  • Approval of the Self-Determination Fund Strategic Plan.
  • Consideration of the Wemba Wamba application for a reserved seat on the Assembly.

With all items of Assembly business wrapped up, Members were invited to give a final speech – reflecting on their time at the Assembly, the journey that brought them here and their many achievements over the past four years. You can watch the video above.

Aunty Geraldine concluded the meeting by acknowledging the enormity of the landmark the Assembly had reached and thanking all of the Members for their hard work.

“Today marks the end of the first Chapter for the Assembly, but it marks the start of something much bigger for all First Peoples here in Victoria.”

Aunty Geraldine

Assembly Elections will be held 13 May to 3 June to provide First Peoples in Victoria with the opportunity to choose the people who will represent them in the next Assembly – which will be tasked with negotiating the statewide Treaty.

If you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in or from Victoria, enrol with the Assembly now to show your support and have your say in our Elections!