Economic independence needed for Treaty – First Peoples’ Assembly seeks feedback on Self- Determination Fund

Mar 24, 2022

The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria has outlined its plan for a Self- Determination Fund to enable Traditional Owners to enter Treaty negotiations with the State Government on a more level playing field and empower Aboriginal communities to build capacity, wealth, and prosperity.

Speaking ahead of a full Chamber Meeting of the Assembly’s elected Members to be held in Melbourne today, Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said Treaty would mean nothing if it didn’t attempt to bridge the economic divide caused by dispossession.

“One group of people, Traditional Owners, were forced off their ancestral lands, so another group could reap the benefits and pass on and accumulate stolen wealth. So of course, when you fast forward a few hundred years, that disadvantage and privilege has been compounded. Fortunately, Treaty offers us a chance to tackle disadvantage by allowing our people to build economic freedom and power for future generations,” said Mr Stewart.

The Self-Determination Fund will be a key component of what the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria will push for as part of the ‘architecture’ for Treaty-making.

“This fund will help make sure Traditional Owner groups are ‘Treaty ready’, in that they feel equipped to sit down with Government and actually negotiate in a way that isn’t one sided. Beyond Treaty negotiations, the fund will also help communities pursue their own priorities and unlock their economic potential,” he said.

The Assembly’s elected Members have developed a preliminary proposal for the Self-Determination Fund – outlined in a discussion paper published yesterday – and are seeking further feedback and ideas before putting a more detailed plan to the Government in coming months.

Assembly Co-Chair and Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said not being dependent on the colonial systems that too often hold Aboriginal people back would be a game changer.

“Our people have the solutions and plenty of ideas, we’ve just never had the same opportunities to back them on our own. The Self-Determination Fund will be a shared resource for Aboriginal communities to build their capacity and generate wealth. With that will come a greater level of economic freedom and independence, which is what we want,” said Aunty.

Read the Discussion Paper and have your say here.

For media enquiries and further information, please contact us.