Marcus Stewart, Reserved Seat holder representing Taungurung Land and Waters Council
Proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung Nation
Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Marcus Stewart, is inspired.
“With all the challenges we’ve faced since the election of the Assembly, including the devastating bushfires and a global pandemic, it is inspiring to see what we, our communities and nations have achieved so far,” he says.
Mr Stewart knew when he stood for the Assembly that there’d be challenges, and even more so when he accepted the Co-Chair’s role alongside Aunty Geraldine Atkinson.
That was to be expected, but it’s unlikely anyone could have predicted the circumstances under which the Assembly’s first term would play out.
He says, however, the solidarity and commitment of the Assembly Members has made it possible to continue moving forward despite the challenges.
“It’s been tough, but extremely rewarding,” he says. “It’s an absolute honour and privilege to work with my other 30 elected leaders.
“I decided to stand for the Assembly to drive system and structural reform, to help improve the lives of our people and because I believe in democracy and the power in unity and we’re doing that.”
Given the significant risks associated with COVID-19, the Assembly moved all its work online, forced to abandon the traditional Aboriginal ways of meeting face-to-face.
“We experienced a few bumps in the road, but we were still able to achieve quite a lot given those circumstances,” he says.
Mr Stewart says the coming 12 months will be another big year for the Assembly and the Aboriginal people it represents.
“We have signed off on the dispute resolution process and now we can jump into the big-ticket items and start to explore with our mob what life could look like with Treaties,” he explains.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in front of us to improve the lives of our people, and we need Community to drive this change with us.”
The Co-Chair also welcomes support from the general public, saying the experience can be shared.
“Stand with us and walk with us on our journey towards Treaty.”