This week newly elected Members of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria will meet for the first time following the historic Treaty Elections in which all eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in or from Victoria were invited to choose the people who will negotiate a statewide Treaty. During this first meeting, the Assembly will elect two Members to serve as Co-Chairs for its new term.
The Assembly is the democratically elected Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. The Assembly’s first term focused on reaching agreement on the processes for ‘how’ the journey to Treaty will unfold, while this next term will focus on actual Treaty negotiations.
Outgoing Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, proud Bangerang and Wiradjuri woman Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, will open the meeting and pass on the symbolic message stick to the next group of Assembly Members. Aunty Geraldine said Victoria had shown the nation the benefits of advancing Voice, Treaty and Truth.
“For too long, Aboriginal people have had laws and policies forced on us by governments that don’t really understand us or worse, don’t respect us or our culture. It’s time to ensure we have the ability to make the decisions about our communities, our culture and our Country,” said Aunty Geraldine.
The building blocks for Treaty that have been established include a Self-Determination Fund to empower the various Traditional Owners across the state, and an independent Treaty Authority grounded in First Peoples’ law, lore and culture which will serve as the trusted umpire to help resolve disputes.
The other outgoing Assembly Co-Chair, proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said these were tangible examples that show that better outcomes are possible when Aboriginal people have the ability to determine and shape policies and programs for Aboriginal people.
“Everyone wants to get on with creating a better future together as equals, but to do that we need to reckon with the injustices of the past, improve how things are done today, and work out better systems for creating a better future together. That’s what Treaty is all about and it’s also something I believe the Federal Voice to Parliament will help with,” said Mr Stewart.
In the lead up to the first meeting, outgoing Co-Chair Aunty Geraldine is encouraging the newly elected Members to make the most of their opportunity to serve on the Assembly and “do all mob proud”.
“What you do with the next four years is going to shape the future of First Peoples here for generations to come,” said Aunty Geraldine.
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