Treaty assembly members consult in Shepparton

By John Lewis

The First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria held its first consultation with Indigenous community members in Shepparton this week.

Assembly members representing Victoria's north east region Leanne Miller, Geraldine Atkinson and Natarshia Bamblett were elected last year.

Assembly co-chair Geraldine Atkinson from Shepparton said following the initial First People's Assembly meeting at Parliament House in December, the 21 elected members are now required to consult with their constituents.

She said she would have like to have seen more Indigenous people attend Wednesday night's meeting.

“A lot of young people were there,” Mrs Atkinson said.

“They asked questions on a whole range of things, particularly in relation to self-determination.

“They also asked why wasn't there a youth voice?

“That has already been flagged by young people at the assembly and we have been working out how that will work.

“This was the first of many meetings. It's not going to happen overnight, but we have been elected for three years and by the end of that we hope to have firm processes in place.”

She said so far, a number of processes have been set up, such as the establishment of a nine-member board with two co-chairs, a new corporation to replace the Victorian Treaty Aboriginal Commission, the setting up of a dispute-resolution authority, a negotiation framework, a self-determination fund to determine the cost of a treaty, a report on how to include the voice of elders, and a cultural overlay process.

Mrs Atkinson said at the end of the treaty process the Indigenous community hoped to acquire self-determination for its future.

“We are envisaging that we will be able to make our own decisions on health, education and justice issues in relation to our communities to ensure that we get better outcomes,” she said.

She said the recently released Closing The Gap Report finding that only two out of seven targets were on track was a sign that more work needed to be done to improve the lives of Indigenous people.

“It's appalling that the mortality rate for Aboriginal children under five is higher than the wider community and that Aboriginal people live eight years less. It's not acceptable,” she said.

Mrs Atkinson said the community consultations now taking place across the state were for all Indigenous Victorians regardless of whether they have enrolled in the Aboriginal Electoral roll or not.

“We want to get out to as many as our mobs as we can. We want to get them involved, and be a part of the process,” Mrs Atkinson said.

“But we also want to make the wider community aware of what we are doing and bring them along on this journey with us.”