Co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, today announced she will not be a candidate in the upcoming Treaty Elections.
Aunty Geraldine is urging the next generation of First Peoples to step up and carry on the collective fight for land rights, justice and self-determination.
Aunty Geraldine said that being the inaugural woman Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria had been an extraordinary honour and that she was proud of the Assembly’s significant achievements over its first term.
“Growing up I’d often listen to our Elders talking about Treaty, but I never imagined I’d be one of the people entrusted by Community to help turn our collective hopes and dreams for Treaty into reality. We’ve achieved so much and I’m very proud of all of our elected Assembly Members, who created a clear pathway to Treaty.”Aunty Geraldine Atkinson
Aunty Geraldine said the first term of the Assembly had focused on creating the process for how Treaty will be negotiated in Victoria, whereas the next group of people elected to the Assembly will be responsible for actually negotiating the statewide Treaty.
“There’s a lot of talented mob out there and I’m hoping we’ll see a lot of amazing people put their hands up to run as candidates. We need our people to show their support and have their say by getting enrolled with the Assembly, but we also need people willing to put in the hard yards and get Treaty done.”Aunty Geraldine Atkinson
Traditional Owners of Country in Victoria have until 4pm on Monday, 24 April, to nominate as candidates. Aunty Geraldine said serving as an Assembly Member had been an incredibly rewarding experience and she was certain Treaty will improve the lives of Aboriginal people in Victoria for generations to come.
“Treaty is about putting our people in the driver’s seat so we can make the decisions on the issues that affect us and our culture and Country. Mob in Victoria are making history. We have a Voice with the Assembly, we have Truth-telling up and running and Treaty negotiations will begin later this year. Now’s the time to get involved.
“Nothing is off the table. The people who stand as candidates and are elected to the next term of the Assembly will be negotiating a statewide Treaty with the Victorian Government that improves the lives of our kids through truth-telling, better education, more jobs, affordable housing, better health, and justice for our people.”Aunty Geraldine Atkinson
Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Aunty Geraldine was instrumental in driving government and policy reform in Aboriginal education. From starting in the field as an Aboriginal teacher’s aide in 1976, Aunty Geraldine moved forward to become the President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc. (VAEAI), a role she has held since 1999.
Aunty Geraldine obtained a Bachelor of Education from Deakin University in 2013 and went on to obtain her Masters of Education in 2019. In early 2020, her leadership in Aboriginal education was further recognised with the awarding of a Deakin University Honorary Doctorate Award. Beyond the field of education, Aunty Geraldine has been a strong voice in areas such as justice, reconciliation and family violence.
“No matter where your mob is or where you live in this state, if you want to be part of delivering change for our people, it’s time to step up. Treaty is happening, but how good it will be, how strong it will be for our people, well that’s up to you, so get enrolled and involved and get your friends and family enrolled. We need to make sure all mob know they are invited to be part of this.”Aunty Geraldine Atkinson
Next steps on the journey to Treaty
In the upcoming term after the Elections, the Assembly will negotiate a statewide Treaty to tackle the big overarching statewide issues like improving health, education, and justice, as well as establish ways to ensure First Peoples have proper respect, recognition and meaningful decision-making power in Victoria.
The Assembly will also help empower the diverse Traditional Owner groups in Victoria to negotiate Treaties in their areas that reflect specific aspirations and priorities.
The Assembly will continue its work in relation to the Treaty Authority, Treaty Negotiation Framework and the Self-Determination Fund. It may also work on functions and powers secured through early Treaty agreements.
Learn more about nominating as a candidate, enrolling and voting in the Assembly Elections at TreatyElections.org.
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