The elected Members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria – the democratic voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the journey to Treaty – will hold their last full meeting of the Assembly’s first term this week in Melbourne Naarm.
Assembly Co-Chair, proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said the Members have a busy agenda to get through at the meeting, but top of the list was finalising plans for the Assembly’s second general election which will be held in May.
“We’ve agreed on the framework and process for Treaty-making in Victoria, next we need to hold elections so all Aboriginal people in and from Victoria have a chance to choose the people who will actually be negotiating the state-wide Treaty.
So if you’re mob, make sure you get enrolled with the Assembly because every vote counts and your voice matters,” said Mr Stewart.
The Treaty Negotiation Framework will see a state-wide Treaty negotiated to address state-wide issues and drive systemic reform, while the various Traditional Owners across the state will be empowered to negotiate Treaties that reflect priorities and aspirations in their areas.
A live feed of Assembly Member’s giving their final speeches of the first term will be broadcast here.
Mr Stewart explained that Assembly Members will finalise a statement at the meeting to declare the Assembly’s intention to negotiate the state-wide Treaty and outline how it will ensure it meets the standards set by the Treaty Negotiation Framework.
“Very early in the process we agreed that we needed many Treaties in Victoria so Traditional Owners could focus on their areas, but we also knew we’d need a state-wide Treaty that can tackle the big overarching state-wide issues. Health, education, justice, these need to be addressed at a systemic level and the Assembly will be best placed to do that,” said Mr Stewart.
The Assembly’s first term was focused on laying the foundations and agreeing on the process for Treaty-making in Victoria. Its second term – which will begin after the elections in May – will focus on actual Treaty negotiations.
Assembly Co-Chair, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said the moment that has been talked about for generations had finally arrived.
“This is it – Treaty is going to happen in Victoria. You can either sit on the sidelines or you can get involved and help decide how strong our Treaty is. This is about putting Aboriginal people in the driver’s seat so we can make a real difference to our communities. Get on board and be counted,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The Assembly is calling on all First Peoples over the age of 16 who are from or in Victoria to enrol now ahead of the state-wide election in May.
“All Aboriginal people are welcome to enrol with us, we need to hear from you. It doesn’t matter if you’re living on your Country or in another area, we want the whole community to know their vote matters and we want them helping to choose the next steps on the shared journey to Treaty,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The Assembly will also soon put out a call for Traditional Owners of Country to stand as candidates in the elections.
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