Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations (The Federation) held 29 meetings with Traditional Owners across Victoria, during the period from August 2018 to July 2019, with a total of 397 people participating. Meetings focused on the issues for each community and in most cases were led by experienced and knowledgeable facilitators, assisting to ensure effective two-way communication. Where requested, reports were provided back to groups for their use and approval. The Federation’s treaty engagement was also informed by the Federation’s treaty research and policy development, creating a unique opportunity to draw together the knowledge and experience of Traditional Owners of Country in Victoria.
- Traditional Owners want to be able to elect a representative for their traditional Country which means being able to vote in the Assembly election for the candidates in the electoral region that contains their traditional Country, rather than being confined to voting in the electoral region where they live.
- The importance of the principle of self-determination was emphasised by participants. This included the need for consultation processes undertaken on the journey towards treaty to give effect to self-determination, including the principle of free, prior and informed consent and the recognition of each Traditional Owner group’s representative and governance structures and decision making processes.
- Consistently, Traditional Owners who don’t yet have formal recognition said they feel excluded from the treaty process and asked if there could be a role for them in the Assembly model.
- Key features of the discussion throughout the engagement included the importance of Elders in the treaty process along with universal agreement that consultation with Elders should have come a lot earlier in the process.
Cultural survival, connection to and control of land and resources continues to be of fundamental importance to Traditional Owners who participated in the Federation’s treaty engagement and there was a strong hope that treaty would enhance these things. Questions remained about how the different formal recognition processes would interact and complement each other.