Treaty Fund to help level the playing field for First Peoples in Victoria

Nov 24, 2022

A ‘Self-Determination Fund’ to generate wealth and help Traditional Owners prepare for Treaty negotiations in Victoria has been created by the First Peoples’ Assembly this week.

Respected Aboriginal leader and former Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Gunditjmara woman, Jill Gallagher, made the foundational donation of $100 to kickstart the Fund and five trusted experts have been appointed to manage the establishment phase.

Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation, Marcus Stewart, said Assembly Members hadn’t wasted any time in bringing to life the agreement reached last month with the Government about the building blocks to enable Treaty-making in Victoria – which included a commitment from the Government to provide an initial down payment of $65 million.

“The Self Determination Fund will be a real game-changer as it will empower Traditional Owner groups to do things their way and let us start to bridge the economic divide that colonisation has inflicted on our people,” said Mr Stewart.

The Assembly has set up the legal entity, a subsidiary company, wholly owned by the Assembly, but to be managed by a group of experts – all First Nations people, that will administer the Fund.

Assembly Co-Chair, Bangerang and Wiradjuri Elder, Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, said the design of the Fund ensures it will always be managed by First People for First People.

“I think we’ve struck a really good balance. We have the democratically elected voice for Community, the First Peoples’ Assembly, controlling the Fund and setting the strategic direction and having the oversight and so on. And then we have the Fund’s directors providing their expert advice and guidance on the actual running and management of the Fund,” said Aunty Geraldine.

The five experts appointed – all First Nations people with extensive financials, community and governance experience – are:

  • Descendant of the Meriam people from the Torres Strait, Kerry Arabena, a former social worker and environmental scientist, public health expert, director of the Kinaway Chamber of Commerce, and consultant.
  • Kamilaroi woman, Nadina Brockhurst, a commercial manager and board member of the Victorian Women’s Trust.
  • Luritja man, Chris Croker, a mining engineer and senior business executive, managing director of Impact Investment Partners, and steering group member of the First Nations Clean Energy Network.
  • Gunditjmara man, Rohan Henry, an experienced project manager in the environmental and water management sector serving on various committees, independent panels and boards.
  • Wiradjuri man, Geoff Scott, a former head of land councils, senior public servant, and manager of representative bodies such as National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.

The experts have been appointed on an interim basis while an extensive public expression of interest and selection process is undertaken to fill the director roles in an ongoing capacity.

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