Equip Aboriginal communities with the power to make the decisions and they will thrive

May 27, 2024

Treaty will directly empower Aboriginal communities to develop and deliver practical solutions at a local level – that’s the message the Co-chairs of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria will present to the Yoorrook Justice Commission tomorrow as part of the state’s formal truth-telling process. 

Gunditjmara man, and Assembly Co-chair, Rueben Berg, said the impact of colonisation and past injustices are still very much alive today and can be seen in various outcomes across health, housing and education. 

“For too long government policies have actively excluded Aboriginal people from getting ahead in life and we still face unfair barriers and carry the burden of deliberately created disadvantage. We need to reset the system, so Aboriginal communities have the economic opportunities we’ve been denied. That way we can create prosperity that we can hand down the generations, just like everyone else has been able to do,” said Mr Berg. 

With Treaty negotiations between the Assembly and the Victorian Government set to commence later this year, Mr Berg said the focus of talks was likely to be how best to transfer decision-making powers from the Government to First Peoples. 

“Obviously Aboriginal people are the experts when it comes to Aboriginal matters. So when it comes to Aboriginal communities and cultures and things like looking after our sacred sites and burial grounds and so on, of course we think it should be us making the decisions,” said Mr Berg. 

Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman, and Assembly Co-chair, Ngarra Murray, said hearing the Premier, Jacinta Allan, at the last Yoorroook session admit her ignorance about the massacres that had taken place in her home area, was a powerful reminder of the need for all Victorians to better understand the impacts of colonisation.  

“A lot of people don’t know the true history of this place and the extent of what was done to our people, so it’s hard for them to understand the problems that grew out of that history which we still face today and need to fix,” said Ms Murray. 

Although the Assembly is still gathering feedback and ideas from Aboriginal communities across Victoria, Ms Murray said she was confident Treaty would also ensure that First Peoples cultures and languages are properly recognised and respected and said this was something that would benefit everyone in Victoria. 

“When Aboriginal communities are thriving, we can come together on equal footing and create a better shared future. We have a lot to offer and I think most people who call Victoria home want to know more about our cultures, our languages and expand their knowledge on our shared history,” said Ms Murray. 

The hearing will be live streamed here: https://yoorrookjusticecommission.org.au