Promoting the rights of First Nations Peoples
Our vision: For First Nations Victorians to have the right to decide for themselves how to manage their lands, communities and lives.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission proudly acknowledges and celebrates the First Nations Peoples of Victoria and their ongoing strength in upholding some of the world’s oldest living cultures. We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands throughout what is now Victoria, where we live and work, and pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.
Traditional Custodians maintain that their sovereignty has never been ceded. The strength, resilience and pride of First Nations Peoples, their cultures, communities and identities continues to grow and thrive today despite the impact of colonisation and ongoing human rights challenges.
The Commission celebrates the important contribution of First Nations communities in progressing human rights in Victoria.
The Charter does not fully realise the rights of First Nations Peoples in Victoria including a right to self-determination
This is a foundational right that enables First Nations Peoples the full enjoyment of all other rights.
The content of the right to self-determination is not settled in Victoria
The Victorian Government currently has a number of policy initiatives that broadly align with the principle of self-determination. These include:
- First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria – the representative body for First Nations Peoples within Victoria, elected from First Nations communities and traditional custodian groups
- Yoorrook Justice Commission – the first formal truth-telling process into injustices experienced by First Nations Peoples in Victoria
- Treaty Authority – the body to be established to oversee treaty negotiations and help resolve disputes between parties
- Treaty Negotiation Framework – outlines the rules and processes for negotiating treaties between the State and First Nations Peoples
- Self-Determination Fund – provides an independent financial resource to support First Nations Peoples to achieve equal standing with the State in Treaty negotiations. It will also help build capacity, wealth and prosperity within First Nations communities.
However, to date the government has not yet reached agreement with First Nations communities in Victoria on a shared definition of the right to self-determination in this state. The progress that has taken place has been focused on the limited concept of self-determination referenced in legislation for the Victorian Aboriginal Treaty process.
Work with First Nations community leaders and the First Peoples’ Assembly to develop a shared understanding of the right to self-determination
In order to effectively advocate for self-determination, it will be critical that all participants have a shared understanding of the principle and practical application of self-determination which will underpin the reform process.
Explore options for a legislative right to self-determination
Options could include reforming the Charter to create a legislative right to self-determination; or including a standalone right to self-determination in Treaty legislation or other legislation stemming from Treaty negotiations.
Work we have done
Our Aboriginal Community Engagement Strategy (ACES) 2020-22 is a Commission-wide commitment to improve how we engage with First Nations Peoples in Victoria, and to provide culturally appropriate and accessible services. Key actions under the ACES have included completion of the Aboriginal Community Partnership Principles, updates to the Commission website improving accessibility and cultural safety for First Nations Peoples and a fast-tracked complaints process for First Nations clients.
Prior to the Attorney-General’s four-year review of the Charter in 2010, the Commission commenced two interconnected initiatives to explore self-determination and the Charter.
In 2009, the Commission engaged the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning to prepare an occasional paper, ‘Indigenous Self-Determination and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – A Framework for Discussion’. The paper acted as a basis for consultations with the First Nations community on whether self-determination should be included in the Charter.
In 2010, the Commission consulted the First Nations community on the issue of self-determination and whether it should be included in the Charter. The findings of these consultations were distilled in the report ‘Talking rights – Consulting with Victoria’s Indigenous community about the right to self-determination and the Charter’. Since that time, the Commission has continued to promote self-determination in our work.
In addition, the Commission remains involved in broader Government initiatives to promote First Nations rights, including participation the Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF) and intergovernmental working groups on a range of topics.