Melissa Jones, Reserved Seat holder representing First People of the Millewa Mallee
Proud Latje Latje and Wotjabuluk
“It’s been a hard process, but at the same time, rewarding to achieve what we have so far. As a Chamber we have got the engine pulling things together.”
That’s Melissa Jones’ thoughts on the First Peoples’ Assembly’s work so far. A period of time when its 31 elected Members were establishing a whole new Aboriginal organisation to embark on a unique Treaty journey while also dealing with a global pandemic that had been thrust into the equation.
“Being at home and not being able to get out and talk to mob was hard,” Ms Jones explains.
“Keeping our mob safe was and is most important for us people. Using social media to family groups and other mob helped get the word out as best we could. So many online meetings to get the work done.”
The experience has been challenging for Members, staff and constituents alike, but Ms Jones says it’s also led to positive outcomes, not least for her.
“I have gained knowledge and the confidence to keep going and doing the best job I can for my people and the rest of the nations of Victoria,” she says.
Ms Jones has played a key role in one of the Assembly’s greatest achievements so far – the establishment of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission – something that has long been called for by Aboriginal people.
Ms Jones was Co-Chair, alongside Troy McDonald, of the Truth-Telling Committee that drafted a proposal to be put to the Victorian Government which it ultimately supported.
“Being a board member and a Co-Chair with Troy McDonald on the Truth-Telling Committee was educational and inspiring,” she says.
“With the knowledge and wisdom within the board, and the Committee, it has just been amazing.”
She sees the Assembly’s work over the next 12 months as crucial.
“We need to get the job done and do it well because the mob is watching us and relying on us to get it right for the next generations,” she explains.
Ms Jones also has succinct messages for the wider general public as well as for the Aboriginal Community.
“White Australia has the untold story of a Black History,” Ms Jones said. “It’s about time the Truth was told. It needs to be told. The real stories need to be told!”
“And for our Aboriginal community. It’s time, it’s our time and it’s the right time.”