Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) consulted with a number of ACCOs, Traditional Owners and Aboriginal leaders in Victoria, as well as other key stakeholders on the issues raised in this paper. The views put forward however are VACCA’s and are not intended to be a representative voice. The Victorian Government is currently engaging with the Aboriginal community in Victoria to develop a treaty process and has established consultation and representative mechanisms to advance treaty-making. The paper also outlines how treaties can be protected from governmental change through legislative requirements, noting the potential need for broader protection of treaties at a Commonwealth level.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the possible implications of Treaty for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), highlight international examples of how treaty holders and Aboriginal agencies have established agreements for service delivery, advocacy and support, and provide some options on how similar arrangements might be established in Victoria. The paper also discusses how the rights of Aboriginal people in Victoria who are off country are upheld (many of whom were removed from family, community and country due to Stolen Generations policies) including their right to self-determination within a treaty environment.
VACCA's view is that the advancing treaty process should involve commitments and agreed processes to establish self-determination-based, authorising environments and, potentially, some form of Indigenous self-government. In Victoria, this could include the negotiation of self-determination-based compacts concerning areas such as health, education, social housing, law, justice, family violence, community development and child and family wellbeing.
ACCOs should continue to be involved and acknowledged in the advancing treaty process and have a strong and secure place at a local and state-wide level once a treaty or treaties are established. For many Aboriginal people living in Victoria, ACCOs are their main access to the Aboriginal community and often their link back to culture.
The promise of the treaty-making process in Victoria is now a tangible prospect but many unknowns still need to be addressed. The voices of ancestors and Elders passed have finally been heard, and now the work remains to ensure that the rights of all Aboriginal Victorians are protected and embedded across policy and legislation.
Whatever funding arrangements are developed, the State government, and potentially also the Federal Government, needs to acknowledge that the process of self-determination requires more than a reallocation and rebranding of current levels of funding to Aboriginal communities and organisations and an acknowledgement that the current wealth of the state is built on dispossession and dislocation of traditional Indigenous economies.
What the First Peoples and the Victorian Government are seeking from the selfdetermination process is a fundamental redefining of the relationships between government and First Peoples. Indeed, this process will also require a redefining of the relationship between non-Indigenous people and First Peoples in Victoria. The principle of self-determination is paramount in both of those relationships. The compacts and selfdetermination arrangements that emerge for ACCOs must be based on Indigenous rights and not just the alleviation of poverty and service delivery contracts.