There have been significant steps to advance Aboriginal self-determination in Victoria through both the Treaty and formal Truth-telling process through the Yoorrook Commission. Victoria has also signed up to a National Agreement on Closing the Gap, with a strong theme around partnership and shared decision making.
As co-chair of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing’s Aboriginal Strategic Governance Forum, I write this statement to express the criticality of our individual and collective roles in delivering on the commitments and actions both within the department’s agreements and strategies, and in system transformation.
Much has been done to nation-build Aboriginal Victoria, and we now have environments where we are managing our own resources, have enterprises, organisations with skilled administration and highly functioning service providers delivering across a broad spectrum of services to Aboriginal people throughout our state. Victoria’s Aboriginal community-controlled sector can be seen as a contemporary expression of Aboriginal peoples’ rights to self-government and self-determination.
For Aboriginal people, culture matters for self-determination and self-management. By culture we mean the shared values, meanings, ways of understanding the world, and beliefs of an Aboriginal nation that inform their everyday practice. Culture underpins the way people work together in our communities and organisations, and it flows through our governance arrangements in persistent and innovative ways. It is clearly relevant both as a dimension and object of our display of self-determination and self-management, and as an explanatory variable for differences in the operation and in achieving outcomes.
Self-determination will require us to build ourselves as First Peoples into a strong positional power, be representational and ensure that we pursue the self-determination rights of our peoples. Why do we do this? Because self-determination works and is the key lever to address Aboriginal vulnerability. Self-determination in our practice and service response is about helping our people make informed choices and decisions that affect their own lives.
Our work with the department commits us to three key principles: Aboriginal-led collective action, Aboriginal self-determination and systemic change.
Our collective efforts in building monitoring, evaluation and accountabilities into government agreements and strategies provides clarity for the work ahead. Most exciting is our work on system transformation, which is premised on government taking on greater responsibility in addressing systemic bias and institutional racism, and in giving greater control to Aboriginal people across the department’s operations.
Further, it commits Aboriginal voice to be in key decision-making roles and commits government to transfer proportional funding and resources across all the department’s portfolios to enable greater self-determination.
We cannot look back on this period of time, read of our aspirations and commitments and then not ask ourselves: Did I do my part in furthering self-determination?
The journey is a shared one that I urge us all to work together to realise.
Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett Hon DLitt SW AO
Co-Chair Aboriginal Strategic Governance Forum