Election Scorecard

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Systemic racism, dislocation and cultural dispossession have contributed to the oppression of Aboriginal Victorians. The impact has been inter generational disadvantage across key areas of well being such as health, education, employment and justice. In order to heal and allow all Aboriginal Victorians to reach their full potential self-determination, initiatives for reconciliation, opportunities for the Aboriginal community and treaty must be supported by the government. Find out how the three biggest parties of Victoria have addressed these issues in the Election Scorecard.

Find out more about the issues outlined in our scorecard below.

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Treaty
Education
Justice
Health
Land and Waterways
Out-of-Home Care

Treaty

Since European settlement of Australia, no Australian government has made a treaty agreement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The consequences of colonisation have been oppressive and catastrophic to the culture, wellbeing and opportunities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have not had the same outcomes in education, health, housing, and cultural support as non-Indigenous Australia. The government and government bodies which have designed and implemented programs to support vulnerable Australians have often been under informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, communities, professionals and leading organisations. 

Treaty in Victoria

The needs of Aboriginal Victorians individuals, communities and clans vary as colonisation has had a range of effects on culture, language, identity, autonomy of individual and community and access to employment, education, housing, health and other services.

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Between April 2016 and June 2017 the Victorian Government conducted treaty consultations with Aboriginal communities across the state in order to connect the Victorian Aboriginal community and gain an understanding of the needs, obstacles and views of Aboriginal Victorians. In that time the state consulted over 7,500 Aboriginal Victorians. January 2017 saw the establishment of the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission which replaced the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group. [1]

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In 2018, forums have been taking place around the state for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community as well as members of the Victorian public to create a more transparent Treaty process.  Jill Gallagher, The Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, has been speaking at these and other events. Events are listed here. 

 

Victorian Advancement Treaty Commissioner, Jill Gallagher,  with Aboriginal Victorians  after a Treaty Circle in the Mallee region. Photo:Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission 

What still needs to be done:

  • establish the Aboriginal Representative Body
  • establish a treaty negotiation framework or set out the scope for any future treaties
  •  establish who the parties to a treaty negotiation should be [6]

Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018

This two-year process has provided the first piece of Treaty legislation in Australia, Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018, which passed in June. The Act outlines guidelines for the establishment of a Treaty, including the roles of the Aboriginal Representative Body and Victorian government in negotiating a framework for Treaty. The Aboriginal Representative Body will work with the State to “establish the entities, rules and resource base necessary to facilitate future treaty negotiations”.[2]

The future content of the treaty/ies, including a framework, still needs to be written. However, in this Act ’the State [of Victoria] recognises the importance of the treaty process proceeding in a manner that is consistent with the principles articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including free, prior and informed consent’.[3]

The Act includes:

  • the future Aboriginal Representative Body and the State to establish elements to support future treaty negotiations. This includes a treaty authority, treaty negotiation framework and a fund to support Aboriginal self-determination
  • enabling the Aboriginal Representative Body to be formally recognised once it has been established as the state's equal partner in the next phase of treaty
  •  guiding principles for the treaty process, including self-determination and empowerment, that all participants in the treaty process must abide by
  • requirement that the Aboriginal Representative Body and government to report annually to Parliament on progress towards treaty[4]

Acknowledging Sovereignty

Before being passed, the Greens proposed several changes to the bill. The only change that did was not passed is the express acknowledgement by government that the Aboriginal clans in Victoria is not and has never been ceded. The Act states, “Victorian traditional owners maintain that their sovereignty has never been ceded” yet many including Aboriginal Victorians, believe that without emphatically acknowledging the ongoing sovereignty of Aboriginal Victorians over the land, the treaty process could cede this sovereignty, particularly when the federal process of treaty is unknown.

‘Treaties are between two sovereigns, and to talk about treaty or to go ahead with treaty negotiations and not actually recognise that Aboriginal people are the sovereign people of this land, then I think that’s one of the major failures of this legislation,” Lidia Thorpe stated.

The Greens supported the passing of the Act, despite the failure to fully incorporate this recommendation.[5]

Clan Elders Council

Many Elders and Aboriginal Victorians expressed frustration in early 2018 at their exclusion from the treaty process and previous consultations. In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lore, Elders have crucial roles in the governance of clans. Supported and endorsed by Gunnai-Gunditjmara woman and Northcote MP, Lidia Thorpe, and the Victorian Traditional Owners Land Justice Group the Clan Elders Council met in May 2018. Here is the statement released by the council after the meeting. The statement acknowledges the work done by the Victorian government thus far, though stated that the consultation process had been flawed. The statement called for the state government to respect and acknowledge the sovereignty of Victorian clans and language groups in the Treaty Advancement legislation.[6]

Funding

In 2018/19 the state budget will provide $9 million to establish the elected Aboriginal Representative Body and advance Treaty. Another $9 million will support Victorian Traditional Owners groups ‘as they work towards formal recognition, and assist the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council to complete its journey to independence.’[7]

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Education

In Victoria, First Nation students generally have lower rates of literacy and numeracy, school attendance and school retention than their non-Indigenous peers. The gap in numeracy and literacy rates, as well as the lack of engagement of First Nation students with school is caused by underrepresentation of the First Nations histories, culture and languages in mainstream schools, and misunderstanding by the dominant non-Aboriginal teacher workforce. Melitta Hogarth, Associate Lecturer, School of Teacher Education and Leadership, Queensland University of Technology, says in order to address this disparity more First Nations people must be employed or sort to contribute to the school system.[8]

‘The lack of progress that has occurred continuously within the nine years of Closing the Gap reports – and the consistency in the areas of concern – illustrates how policy rhetoric lacks innovation and, more importantly, Indigenous voice.’  -Melissa Hogarth[9]

Close the Gap

In November, 2008 the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) Close the Gap (CTG) Strategy set out six targets to achieve life expectancy and health equality by 2030, with a seventh target being added in 2014. Closing the Gap  focuses on improving equality in health care by improving healthcare directly as well as interrelated social areas. Four of the seven targets focus on education.[10] These are:

  • Children’s reading, writing and numeracy
  • School attendance
  • Year 12 attainment
  • Early childhood education (added in 2014)

 

The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework

The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2013-2018 (VAAF). The VAAF 2013-2018 committed to closing the gap in health, education and housing outcomes. Using the Close the Gap strategy as a framework, the VAAF includes several additional targets specific to impediments placed on Aboriginal Victorians. One of the targets outlined in the VAAF is education and training.[11]

Literacy and numeracy target:

Close the gap for indigenous children in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade

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There has been an increased performance gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students across some measures of the NAPLAN.The proportion of Victorian Aboriginal students achieving national minimum standards in NAPLAN is on track in only half the areas (year 3 and 5 reading and year 5 and 9 numeracy).

Table indicates whether a jurisdiction is on track to reach the target, 2017. Source: Closing the Gap, 2018, pp.60

 

School attendance target: 
Close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance by 2018

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The VAAF has shown that the gap in four-year-old kindergarten participation narrowed by 80 per cent, placing Aboriginal kindergarten participation at near parity with non-Indigenous participation rates.

There has been no other meaningful improvement in First Nations attendance rates across Victoria between 2014 and 2017 and attendance remains at about 87%, the third highest of all states and territories after NSW and Tasmania.

 

 

Source: Closing the Gap, 2018, pp. 53

Year 12 attainment target: 
Halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 in year 12 attainment rates by 2020

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The gap in Year 10 retention has closed while the gap in Year 12 attainment has narrowed in the past decade. While Victoria is currently below its trajectory point, its attainment rate is still among the highest of all the jurisdictions. [12]

 

 

Sources: ABS Census of Population and Housing 2006, 2011 and 2016

 

 

Despite Aboriginal students staying in school longer, lower school attendance and NAPLAN achievement rates indicate ongoing challenges to improving education outcomes for Aboriginal students.

Koorie Kids Shine program

‘Koorie Kids Shine’ aims to make kindergarten more accessible for children of all cultural backgrounds including Aboriginal children. The program also aims to support and strengthen the cultural identity of children from a young age through art, music and conversation.[13]

Marrung

Marrung 2016-2026 is a strategy that aims to increase learning outcomes for Aboriginal Victorian students by creating inclusive education programs and policies which are developed and implemented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The strategy was implemented in 2016 and will be reviewed in 2026.

Marrung is the Wemba Wemba word for the Murray Cypress pine tree, representing branches of education and knowledge.[14]

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Justice

In June 2017, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners accounted for just over a quarter (27%) of the Australian prisoner population, despite the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia accounting for only 2% of Australia’s total population.[15] In the same month 9% of adult Victorian prisoners identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, a 10% increase since June 2016 [16].

The Council of Australian Governments reported in 2016-17 that the average net operating expenditure per prisoner per day was $304.12. The net operating expenditure per community corrections offender per day in 2016–17 was $28.98[17]. Furthermore, the prison system has showed limited results in reducing crime with 43.6% of the prisoners who were released in 2014–15 returning to prison within two years of release.[18] High re-incarceration and low rehabilitation rates, as well as common social determinants which lead to crime and imprisonment, suggest that prison does not address the causes of crime and has little success in ending the cycle of imprisonment. Common social determinants include economic adversity, discrimination, unemployment, low self esteem and family instability. This means that in order to reduce crime, social and economic disadvantage must be addressed.[19]

Deaths in Custody

In 1991, the report of the Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody was tabled and the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act 1991 was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and the Senate.Since June 1979, a total of 2,608 deaths in custody have occurred in Australia, with 1,600 deaths occurring in prison and 985 deaths occurring in police custody and custody-related operations. 500 of those were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. There has also been much documentation of the mistreatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the prison system.[20]

Women in Custody

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women account for 34% of the Australian female prison population, yet only 2% of the Australian female population, many of them mothers. Since 1991 the number of incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has risen by 150%.[21]

In May 2017, Change the Record and the Human Rights Law Centre produced Over-represented and overlooked: the crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s growing over-imprisonment. The report highlights the importance of access to specialist, holistic and culturally safe services and supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in order to reduce the rate of imprisonment. The report outlines 18 recommendations and calls for all levels of government to commit to increased funding and support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led prevention and early intervention efforts, as well as a move away from 'tough on crime' approaches being embodied in rhetoric and reality.[22]

 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women  are more likely to be victims of domestic violence often feel unsafe in temporary housing arrangements due to discrimination and the wide lack of cultural understanding among those working in the sector. Some studies indicate that in Australia between 88-90% of violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is not disclosed to police.[23] Many Aboriginal  women do not seek legal services due to mistrust of the legal system. Aboriginal girls make up the majority of Aboriginal children removed from their family and are more likely to be subject to sexual and other abuses under the protection of the state. The system is also seen as racist and sexist as discrimination manifests itself in off hand remarks made by judges and defense counsels which degrade Aboriginal women for their circumstances, Aboriginal heritage, sexual histories and fitness as mothers.[24] Police forces often fail to adequately investigate their complaints of violence.[25] In addition, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are often not asked about their cultural background when accessing services of family safety, such as police and courts. As a consequence, the information and data collection regarding this matter may be inaccurate.These factors contribute to the high numbers of incarcerated Aboriginal women in Victoria.

Justice Reinvestment

The scheme reallocates taxpayers money from prisons and invests them in communities where they are much needed. Justice reinvestment aims to reduce crime rather than simply punish and criminalise. Investing money locally supports individuals and communities who are facing difficulties, reduces systemic racism and the communication failure between the prison and police systems with the wider community.[25]

In July 2018 the national congress called on every state to create a Justice Reinvestment scheme.[9] Additionally, the Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass, and Victoria’s Deputy Chief Magistrate, Jelena Popovic, have called for the investigation of Justice Reinvestment as an alternative, long term criminal justice approach and the examination of successful approaches to justice in other jurisdictions.[26]

Change the Record

Change the Record was launched in 2015 by the National Justice Coalition along with peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander organisations. The campaign aimed to address causes of crime by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities to deliver  early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. This includes working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to invest in holistic early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are  evidence-based and more cost-effective solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women and children, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger communities.

Spent Convictions

Victoria is the only state in Australia which does not have spent conviction legislation, meaning irrelevant criminal convictions may affect employment outcomes. As the Aboriginal and Torres Strait population is overly represented in the justice system, they are also the most disadvantaged by prejudice against spent convictions. Until the early 1990s, the Victorian court system did not distinguish between criminal and welfare proceedings, leaving many children who received state care with criminal records.

The Commonwealth and every state and territory have spent conviction legislation. Additionally, the Commonwealth, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory all provide a process for people to make a complaint about discrimination on the basis of their criminal records or spent convictions. The Commonwealth, Tasmania and the Northern Territory have legislated protections against discrimination on the basis of ‘irrelevant criminal record’. Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory have legislated protections against discrimination on the basis of spent convictions.[27] In Victoria, the release of criminal history is determined by the discretion of the Victoria Police on a case by case basis as outlined in the Victoria Police Information Release Policy.[28] This policy results in inconsistency and uncertainty as to the fate of those with spent convictions, as well as opening up the law to prejudice and racism.[29]

Initiated by Woor-Dungin, the Criminal Record Discrimination Project (CRDP) is now a collaboration of various community and legal organisations including Healesville Indigenous Community Services Association, Mallee District Aboriginal Services, Willum Warrain, Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation, Aboriginal Legal Service, Tarwirri and The Law Institute of Victoria. The project is driven by an Advisory Committee with over 50 members. The project seeks two reforms:

  1. The introduction of a legislated spent convictions scheme in Victoria     
  2. An amendment to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) to prohibit discrimination against people with an irrelevant criminal record.

In February 2016, Woor-Dungin began consultations to uncover how discrimination on the basis of irrelevant criminal record affects Aboriginal Victorians, particularly those in rural and regional Victoria. Research included the pros and cons of spent conviction legislation in other states.[30]

At the Aboriginal Justice Forum in 2017 in Swan Hill, delegates voted unanimously to support the CRDP’s submission on the previously specified legislative changes. The submission is now with the state government.

The Government has not formally responded to the submission or indicated whether it will establish a spent convictions scheme in Victoria or prevent discrimination on the grounds of old or irrelevant criminal history.

ANTaR calls on the Government to implement these widely supported and long overdue reforms.

However, the Government has indicated that it will act to address a subset of criminal records, those records which relate to historic care and protection matters.  The CRDP identified that until the early 1990s, the Victorian court system did not distinguish between criminal and welfare proceedings, leaving many children who received state care with criminal records and called on the Government to remove them. 

In March 2018 The Andrews Government tabled a letter in Parliament which outlined a range of actions to acknowledge the harm and distress caused by the historical recording practices. These actions were based on consultations with police and Aboriginal advocates around the state. The letter does not mention either of the recommendations outlined by Woor-Dungin.

In the same month, the Victorian Attorney-General Martin Pakula issued a media release acknowledging the injustice of spent convictions applied to Aboriginal children removed from their homes. It stated:

‘Victoria Police will make the changes necessary to ensure that statements of criminal history do not represent care and protection applications as offences. The Children’s Court, DHHS and Victoria Police will provide contextual information to accompany the release of hard copy records.’

The Government will now consider:

  •  A formal apology that acknowledges how these practices may have affected care leavers
  • How the law can make it clear that specific historical provisions under which children were taken into care and protection as a result of a care and protection application alone did not create criminal offences and therefore do not give rise to criminal convictions
  • Other laws need to be changed to correct the records if they are misleading and suggest criminal conduct.[31]

Stolen Wages

From 1869 until 1974, under the Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 (Vic), the Victorian Government implemented a system of employment control of Aboriginal workers through work certificates and contracts.[32] Under this legislation, the government or ‘guardian’ of an Aboriginal employee withheld up to 70% of wages from Aboriginal Victorians.[33] Similar laws existed in other states around the same period. The withheld wages were due to be collected by Aboriginal Victorians at the end of their employment, yet paperwork was often lost or misplaced and most Victorians affected by stolen wages have not been reimbursed. There are also cases of cheques being lost in the mail or kept by police and government employees. Those who were reimbursed had to expend a considerable amount of time and energy to do so.

Not only were wages stolen from Aboriginal Victorians, the government also withheld child endowments and benefits, savings, inheritances, soldiers’ pay, maternity payments, trust funds, deceased estates, unemployment benefits, lump sum compensation payments, aged or invalid pensions and workers compensation.

This economic barrier diminished opportunities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and has contributed to intergenerational poverty.[34] Compensation had never been adequately proposed.

Wampan Wages, or the Victorian Stolen Wages Working Group, was formed in 2006 to investigate the wages which were held from Aboriginal Victorian employees. In the same year the Commonwealth Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee produced a report entitled Unfinished business: Indigenous stolen wages. The report made a number of recommendations relevant to the Victorian government in relation to the issue of Indigenous stolen wages including “consulting with Indigenous people in relation to the stolen wages issue” and conducting “preliminary research of their archival material”. In 2007, the Victorian Government committed to the investigation of stolen wages in Victoria.[35]

In 2009 the group released a report to Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and the Public Record office entitled Indigenous Stolen Wages Preliminary Investigation-Stage one: establishing a legal framework.[36] Due to the mostly voluntary nature of the investigation and the breadth of data needed, those affected by stolen wages are still seeking re-compensation. A decade on, the struggle for acknowledgment of this horror and compensation has still not come to light. Though it has been difficult to fuel such a conversation publicly for so long Wampan Wages is still fighting for justice.

 

Aboriginal Justice Agreement

The Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) is a partnership between the Victorian Government and the Aboriginal Victorian community which aims to minimise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation in the criminal justice system by incorporating Aboriginal guidance into the design, development and implementation of all justice policies and programs that affect Aboriginal Victorians. Increased participation is achieved through community programs, partnerships and place-based partnership projects.[37]

 

Resources:

NITV: Stolen generation

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Health

Aboriginal Victorians experience poorer health outcomes compared to the general population, due to a number of social determinants such as lower access to health education, systemic discrimination and a lack of culturally appropriate or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designed support in the health industry.[38] In 2017 it was found that Aboriginal Victorians have an increased risk of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm, and suicide, particularly in the LGBTQI community. Aboriginal Victorians are also three times more likely to have diabetes, three times more likely to experience food insecurity and show an increased rate of obesity and a higher rate of tooth decay. On top of this, Aboriginal children 10 and under exhibit almost one and a half times the rate of potentially preventable dental hospitalisations, as well as higher rates of blood borne diseases. Indigenous Victorians are twice as likely to have a disability, more likely to have dementia with onset appearing at a younger age than the general population and the presentation of chronic disease at the emergency department is twice as likely. Aboriginal women in Victoria are almost three times more likely to develop cervical cancer and almost four times more likely to die from disease as opposed to the general population of Victorian women.[39] Additionally, the gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians is 9.5 years for women and 10.6 years for men. The median age of aboriginal Victorians is 23, far lower than the general population’s median age of 37.[40]

Close the Gap

Closing the Gap, launched in 2008 by the COAG, sets out seven targets to improve equality in health care goods and services, preventing illness, providing support by the health care system, as well as providing adequate housing, food, and water supplies.

  1. Life expectancy
  2. Infant mortality rates
  3. Children’s reading, writing and numeracy
  4. School attendance
  5. Employment
  6. Year 12 attainment
  7. Early childhood education (added in 2014)

The Campaign is being refreshed in 2018.

The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework

The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework  2013-2018 (VAAF).  The VAAF 2013-2018 committed to closing the gap in health, education and housing outcomes. Using the Close the Gap strategy as a framework, the VAAF includes several additional targets specific to obstacles placed on Aboriginal Victorians. One of the targets outlined in the VAAF is education and training.

The VAAF includes two targets relating directly to health:

  1. Maternal and early childhood health and development
  2. Health, housing and wellbeing

Maternal and early childhood health

The gap in peri natal mortality and low birth weight has been reduced by more than half in Victoria since 2013. Nationally, the gap has widened. VAAF targets aim to close both of these gaps by 2023. The participation gap in Maternal Child Health Key Ages and Stages consults has narrowed by a third since 2010.[41]

CTG Recommendations

It was stated in the 10-year review that a refreshed Closing the Gap strategy must focus on ‘delivering equality of opportunity in relation to health goods and services, especially primary health care, according to need and in relation to health infrastructure (an adequate and capable health workforce, housing, food, water).’ Furthermore, there should be a focus on ‘maternal and infant health, chronic disease and other health needs.’

Recommendations of the Closing the Gap campaign include federal, state and territory governments working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders to determine the most effective strategy of implementation, reinvigorating national funding and establish state and federal measurements for success. It also includes the implementation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Mental Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing 2017-2023 by the end of 2018, maternal and infant health programs, focus on chronic disease and an adequate housing plan.[42]

KorinKorin Balit-Djak

KorinKorin Balit-Djak was launched in 2017 to provide the framework for improving the health, wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal Victorians over the next 10 years. KorinKorin Balit-Djak means ‘growing very strong’ in the Woiwurrung language. The project is to be reviewed every three years to determine its continued effectiveness. The next review will be in 2020.

The five areas addressed are:

  • Aboriginal community leadership
  • Prioritising Aboriginal culture and community
  • System reform across the health and human services sector
  • Safe, secure, strong families and individuals
  • Physically, socially and emotionally healthy Aboriginal communities

The plan is informed by over 50 consultation meetings with Aboriginal communities across Victoria, along with a strong evidence base, including Koolin Balit evaluation findings and an Aboriginal panel with expertise in health, well-being and safety.

 Findings of consultations are:

  • Self-determination to be centrally linked to health, wellbeing and safety.
  • Addressing racism.
  • Reforming the health and human services system.
  • The centrality of culture to Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety.[43]

Health and Spirituality

It is important to consider that health extends beyond the physical to the spiritual and emotional wellbeing of an individual. The nature of Aboriginal spirituality, connection to country and connection to community must inform the treatment of Aboriginal health. Cultural factors such as identity, language, spirituality, and connection to country, to family, and to community have an immense impact of the well-being of First Nations people. KorinKorin Balit-Djak recognises that utilising these strengths will promote self-determination and lead to positive progress. KorinKorin Balit-Djak also acknowledges the diversity of Aboriginal communities across the state. In Victoria alone, there are nearly 40 different languages spoken. Furthermore, ‘a person’s life experiences, expectations, culture and beliefs, age, sex ,gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and the relationship between these factors can interact to create overlapping forms of racism and power imbalance that compound the effects of discrimination.’[44]

The report lists 6 indicators which reflect the trans-generational trauma and systemic racism. These indicators are:

  1. Mothers and Babies: Perinatal mortality is approximately twice as high in the Aboriginal population and twice as likely to have a low birth weight.
  2. Family violence: Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence and 25 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of family violence. This leads to high rates of homelessness among Aboriginal women.
  3. Out of home care: 88% of Aboriginal children in Victoria have experienced family violence. Aboriginal children in Victoria are more than 14 times more likely to be in out of home care and eight times more likely to be the subject of a child protection substantiation.
  4. Justice, health and wellbeing: Young Aboriginal Victorians are 12 times more likely to be subject to community based supervision orders and in detention than non-Aboriginal Victorians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 9% of the Victorian prison population, despite accounting for 2% of the Victorian population.[5]
  5. Housing and Homelessness: Aboriginal Victorians are more likely to be clients of social housing and less likely to be buying or owning a home compared to non-Aboriginal people. Aboriginal Victorians are four times more likely to be homeless than non-Aboriginal Victorians. Aboriginal women are fifteen times more likely to seek assistance from crisis homelessness services than non-Aboriginal women in Victoria.
  6. Tobacco, alcohol and other drugs: Aboriginal Victorians over 18 are three times as likely to smoke tobacco. Young Aboriginals are more likely to consume drugs and alcohol. [45]

To ensure that Self-Determination is achieved, the KorinKorin Balit-Djak paper has outlined actions that indicate the transfer of power. These are:

  • Prioritising funding to Aboriginal organisations
  • Investing in Aboriginal self-determining structures, such as Aboriginal representative structures to lead the governance, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety initiatives throughout Victoria
  • Prioritising Aboriginal culture and community-led initiatives
  • Growing and broadening the skills base of the Aboriginal workforce to support self-determination
  • Ensuring the health and human services sector is culturally safe and accountable and identifying opportunities to transfer decision-making to Aboriginal services and communities.

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Land and Waterways

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have held a Connection to Country and waters since well before colonisation. The land tells dreamtime stories and reflects the history of the land and its people. This connection does not translate directly into the dominant colonial world view in Australia. Respect for and positive management of the lands and waters is vital for the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People as well as the wellbeing of the land and waters themselves.

Knowledge and respect for the land and waters is present throughout Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. As such, dreamtime stories and cultural practices have helped to maintain and replenish the land for tens of thousands of years. Due to different cultures and landscapes, these methods and understandings of the land are expressed and utilised differently between different nations. In order to combat the damages and trauma which colonisation has caused the lands and waters, Aboriginal Victorians must have considerable input into the management of local parks and reservations, sacred sites and waterways.[46]

 

Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Training

The Victorian government currently runs a program titled Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Training which focuses on the preservation and management of Victorian Aboriginal cultural heritage in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Much cultural heritage is attached to the land and waters, specifically focusing on sacred sites and parks or reservations.[47]

Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010

In Victoria, the Traditional Owners Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) establishes a framework that recognises custodianship over land and waters of Traditional Owners. The act allows for land to be returned to Aboriginal ownership under a form of land title called Aboriginal Title. Traditional Owner Group is defined to include any native title holders and any persons who are recognised by the Attorney-General as the Traditional Owners of the land, based on Aboriginal Traditional and cultural associations with the land. The Settlement Act applies in respect to ‘public land’ including Crown land, reserves, national parks, State forests etc. Land under this title will continue to be managed as a form of public parks.[48]

TO settlement and NT in Vic.png

 

Traditional Owner Land Management Boards (TOLMBs) will be made up of Traditional owners (majority), government representatives and members of the broader Victorian community and will be established to oversee the management of parks covered by joint management arrangements. This structure of land management supports the cultural strength of Victorian Traditional Owners. It also leads to innovative ways of land management including Traditional practices of preservation and restoration and encourages the education of park visitors in areas of culture, history and contemporary aspirations of Traditional Owners.

‘Parks Victoria is the main partner with Traditional Owners in caring for jointly managed parks. Parks Victoria is embarking on a reform program to prepare for a future of jointly managing Victoria’s cultural landscapes with Traditional Owners. The Managing Country Together framework will provide both practical and symbolic recognition of Traditional Owner rights, underpin enduring partnerships with Traditional Owners and strengthen sector capacity in joint protected area and cultural heritage management.’[49]

 

Registered Aboriginal Parties

Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) are organisations that hold decision-making responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic) for managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage in a specified geographical area. RAPs are appointed by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council.

There are currently 11 RAPs in Victoria. These RAPs currently cover approximately 60% of Victoria. This structure of governance has given Traditional Owner communities control over their lands and communities, yet they only represent the legally recognised lands of various Traditional Owner groups and may not reflect traditional borders.

Aboriginal Development Grants in Victoria

Through Water for Victoria, the Victorian Government has committed to investing $4.7 million over four years for the purpose of researching regional and local projects with Aboriginal Victorians in order to comprehend the value, uses, aims and requirements of water for Aboriginal Victorians.

 

This program forms part of the opportunity to restore the damage done to the development of Victoria’s water resources since colonisation. Furthermore, improving Aboriginal Victorian’s access to water resources on Country offers important opportunities for economic development.

The objectives of the Aboriginal Water Program are:

  • Recognise Aboriginal values and objectives of water (Water for Victoria Action 6.1)
  • Include Aboriginal values and traditional ecological knowledge in water planning (Water for Victoria Action 6.2)
  • Support Aboriginal access to water for economic development (Water for Victoria, Action 6.3)
  • Build capacity to increase Traditional Owner and Aboriginal Victorians participation in water management (Water for Victoria, Action 6.4). [50]

 Cultural burning       

Cultural burning refers to fires created using traditional practices to manage the land. No lighters or accelerants are used, yet there are various methods used for different habitats and inspired by different traditional practices. These fires burn cooler and slower than conventional "planned burns", meaning the smoke is light and patchy and takes a natural path through the bush. This method of burning preserves native shrubs and animal life while allowing the land to replenish itself naturally and reducing the chances of bushfires.[51]

 

In 2017, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and members of the Dja Dja Wurrung community assisted the Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) in Loddon Mallee in creating burning and fire management programs in the region. In this area of central Victoria, flames from a single fire are carried into the bush in bowls and with fire sticks to transfer the fire to fuel on the forest floor. The burns are undertaken as a joint partnership between the Victorian state government and traditional owners and are thought to be the first example of this in the state in 170 years.[52]

2018/19 Budget

The 2018/19 Victorian Budget will provide $200,000 to develop a strategy to increase employment and business opportunities for Aboriginal Victorians in natural resource management across government organisations, including Parks Victoria.

The Labor Government has also invested $400,000 to support the Yorta Yorta people to unlock the cultural heritage at the Barmah National Park through the development of a masterplan.

Two sites, Kalimna Park and Greater Bendigo National Park, will receive $2.05 million to bring more visitors and improve biodiversity though intensive land and natural resource management, including recruitment for dedicated Traditional Owner ranger positions.[53]

Further resources:

Victorian Government, ‘Aboriginal places, objects and land management

Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018

Indigenous Peoples and Water

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Out-of-Home Care

In June 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children comprised 5.5% of all children aged 0-17 yet accounted for 36.2% of all children in out of home care making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children 10 times as likely to be in out-of-home care. [54]] In 2017 Aboriginal children in Victoria are more than 14 times more likely to be in out of home care. Furthermore 88% of Aboriginal Victorian children in out-of home care have experienced family violence.[55]

The most common push factors for Aboriginal children entering out-of-home care are poverty, combined with poor mental health, family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and disability. There is very clear evidence between these factors and the structural constraints that are the legacy of two centuries of devastating and intrusive state policy.

 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle

The principle was created to reduce the number of Aboriiginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care and reduce the rate of imprisonment, addiction and social isolation for those children in out-of-home care. The principle states the preferred order of placement for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child who has been removed from their birth family. The preferred order is for the child to be placed with:

  • carers within family and kinship networks;
  • non-related carers in the child’s community; and then
  • carers in another Indigenous community.

According to the principle, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child can only be placed with a non-Indigenous carer if an appropriate placement cannot be found from these three groups, and if connection between the child and their family, community and cultural identity can be maintained.

In October 2017, just under 60% of Aboriginal Victorian children in out-of-home care were placed with relatives/kin, other indigenous care givers or in Indigenous residential care.[56]

Aboriginal Organisations to Manage Indigenous Out of Home Care

Victoria’s Andrews Labour Government has announced that Aboriginal organisations will be given responsibility of case management in Indigenous out-of-home care.The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) has pledged their support for the program – CEO Aunty Muriel Bamblett said it was vital in keeping kids connected to culture:

“A lot of the children that we work with [are] Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, and a lot of them get placed away from their Aboriginal and community, so they get ostracised from not knowing their community and they go searching for them”[58]

References

[1] Government of Victoria, “Results of treaty consultations” https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/treaty/results-of-treaty-consultations.html; Government of Victoria, “Aboriginal Treaty Working Group”, https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/treaty/aboriginal-treaty-working-group.html; Government of Victoria, “What is a treaty?”, https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/treaty/what-is-a-treaty.html

[2] Government of Victoria,” Treaty legislation”, https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/treaty/treaty-legislation.html

[3] Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018

No. 28 of 2018. 3 Jul 2018, Page 2. http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/PubStatbook.nsf/f932b66241ecf1b7ca256e92000e23be/CDE74BAB9461DECDCA2582BF001C5721/$FILE/18-028aa%20authorised.pdf

[4] Government of Victoria,” Treaty legislation”, https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/treaty/treaty-legislation.html. Accessed 06 Aug 2018.

[5]The Guardian, 7 June 2018, 'Victorian lower house passes treaty legislation after Greens accept Labor deal', https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jun/07/victoria-on-brink-of-passing-treaty-legislation-as-greens-accept-labor-deal

[6]Treaty Now, https://treaty.org.au/#treaty

[7] Hon. Natalie Hutchins, 'Massive boost for self-determination', 1 May 2018, https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/massive-boost-for-self-determination/

[8]Indigenous Education Strategies for Government Schools, June 2011, Victorian Auditor-General’s Report, pp. vii, https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/papers/govpub/VPARL2010-14No37.pdf

[9]  The conversation, Melitta Hogarth, “Is policy on Indigenous education deliberately being stalled?” June 8, 2017,  https://theconversation.com/is-policy-on-indigenous-education-deliberately-being-stalled-76855

[10]  Closing the gap report, 2018, Australian Government: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, pp. 60, https://closingthegap.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/ctg-report-2018.pdf?a=1

[11]Maggolee,Aboriginal Affairs policy in Victoria http://www.maggolee.org.au/victorian-policy/

[12]Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Report, 2017, Victorian State Government, pp.5, https://www.vic.gov.au/system/user_files/Documents/av/Victorian_Government_Aboriginal_Affairs_Report_2017.pdf

[13]Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2018, Victorian State Government

https://www.education.vic.gov.au/childhood/parents/kindergarten/Pages/aboriginal.aspx

[14]Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan, 2016, Victorian State Government. https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/programs/aboriginal/Marrung_Aboriginal_Education_Plan_2016-2026.pdf

Justice

[15] “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Prisoner Characteristics”, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4517.0~2017~Main%20Features~Aboriginal%20and%20Torres%20Strait%20Islander%20prisoner%20characteristics~5

[16]“Prisoners in Australia, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4517.0~2017~Main%20Features~Victoria~19

 [17] Corrections, Prisoners & Parole, 2017, Victoria State Government, http://www.corrections.vic.gov.au/utility/publications+manuals+and+statistics/corrections+statistics+quick+reference

[18] “The role of social factors in explaining crime,” 2008, University Malaysia Sarawak, Malaysia,  http://store.ectap.ro/articole/873.pdf

[19] Change The Record, August 2017, “Three years since Ms Dhu’s tragic death in custody and unfair laws remain,” https://changetherecord.org.au/blog/news/three-years-since-ms-dhus-tragic-death-in-custody-and-unfair-laws-remain

[20] Australian Government: Australian Institute of Criminology, April 2018, “Latest deaths in custody data now available on Crime Statistics Australia,  https://aic.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases-and-statements/latest-deaths-custody-data-now-available-crime-statistics-austalia

[21] NITV, Nakari Thorpe, “Indigenous women’s imprisonment rates a ‘national crisis,” 15 May 2017, https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2017/05/15/indigenous-womens-imprisonment-rates-national-crisis

[22] “Overrepresented and Overlooked”, May 2017, Human Rights Law Centre, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/580025f66b8f5b2dabbe4291/t/59378aa91e5b6cbaaa281d22/1496812234196/OverRepresented_online.pdf

[23] “Justice Reinvestment in Victoria,” 2018, Youthlaw Young People’s Human Rights Centre, http://youthlaw.asn.au/campaigns-advocacy/justice-reinvestment-home/justice-reinvestment-in-victoria/

[24] 'The cost of family violence in Victora', May 2017, https://www.vic.gov.au/system/user_files/Documents/fv/Cost%20of%20family%20violence%20in%20Victoria.pdf

[25] Australian Institute of criminology, ‘Non-reporting and hidden recording of sexual assault’, https://aic.gov.au/publications/archive/non-reporting-and-hidden-recording-of-sexual-assault pp.59

[26] Australian Institute of criminology, ‘Non-reporting and hidden recording of sexual assault’, https://aic.gov.au/publications/archive/non-reporting-and-hidden-recording-of-sexual-assault pp. 60

[27]“National Congress Calls for Justice Reinvestment to be Implemented in Every State and Territory,” 2018, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, https://nationalcongress.com.au/national-congress-calls-for-justice-reinvestment-schemes-to-be-implemented-in-every-state-and-territory/

[28] “Justice Reinvestment in Victoria,” 2018, Youthlaw Young People’s Human Rights Centre, http://youthlaw.asn.au/campaigns-advocacy/justice-reinvestment-home/justice-reinvestment-in-victoria/

[29] ABC News, Lindy Kerin, “National Justice Coalition launch strategy to reduce over-representation of Indigenous people in custody,” 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-30/strategy-to-reduce-over-representation-of-indigenous-in-custody/6434584

[30] “Information release policy,” September 2017, Victoria Police, https://www.police.vic.gov.au/retrievemedia.asp?Media_ID=38447

[31]

[32]Aboriginal Protection Act 1869 (Vic); Indigenous Stolen Wages Preliminary Investigation-Stage one: establishing a legal  framework https://www.vic.gov.au/system/user_files/Documents/av/Indigenous-Stolen-Wages-Preliminary-Investigation.pdf, p.4

[33] 'Report reflects wage claims', Koori Mail 467 p.12; 'We want our money', Koori Mail 482 p.43

[34] ‘Indigenous Stolen Wages Preliminary Investigation, Stage one: Establishing a legal  framework’, September 2009, https://www.vic.gov.au/system/user_files/Documents/av/Indigenous-Stolen-Wages-Preliminary-Investigation.pdf pp.13

[35] ‘Indigenous Stolen Wages Preliminary Investigation, Stage,’ ibid, pp.10

[36] ‘Indigenous Stolen Wages Preliminary Investigation, Stage,’ ibid, pp.1

[37] Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, Victoria State Government,

[38] “Closing the gap: what’s next for Victoria?”, 2018 Victoria State Government pp. 6

https://s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/hdp.au.prod.app.vic-engage.files/3615/3353/3789/VAAF_community_engagement_report_-_Final.pdf

[39] “KorinKorin  Bolit-Djak: Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan”, August 2017,  pp. 15 https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/health-strategies/aboriginal-health/korin-korin-balit-djak

[40]  “Closing the gap: what’s next for Victoria?” 2018, Victoria State Government, pp. 3 https://engage.vic.gov.au/application/files/4015/1660/3985/Discussion_Guide.pdf

[41]ibid

[42]“Closing the gap: what’s next for Victoria?” ibid, pp. 4

[43] Korin Korin Bolit Djak, ibid, pp. 9.

[44] ibid, p.13

[45]ibid, p. 13

[46]“The Importance of Land”, Australians Together, https://www.australianstogether.org.au/discover/indigenous-culture/the-importance-of-land/

[47] “Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Management Training”, Victoria State Government: Aboriginal Victoria,  https://www.vic.gov.au/aboriginalvictoria/grants-funding-and-training/aboriginal-cultural-heritage-management-training.html

[48]  “Traditional Owner Settlement Act”, Victoria State Government: Justice and Regulation, http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/your+rights/native+title/traditional+owner+settlement+act

[49]  “Aboriginal Joint Management,” Parks Victoria (Victoria State Government), http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/park-management/aboriginal-joint-management

[50]  “Aboriginal Development Grants,” Victorian state government: Environment, Land, Water and Planning, https://www.water.vic.gov.au/grants/aboriginaldevelopment

[51]  “Celebrating the return of traditional burning: Fuel Management Report 2016-17,” Forest Fire Management Victoria,

https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/fuel-management-report-2016-17/what-we-achieved-statewide/traditional-owners-partnerships/celebrating-the-return-of-traditional-burning

[52]  SBS News, Luke Waters, “Reviving Indigenous cultural burns for bushfire management,” 29 May 2017, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/traditional-burning-reviving-indigenous-cultural-burns-for-bushfire-management

[53] “Massive Boost for Self-Determination”, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs,  https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/massive-boost-for-self-determination/

[54] https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/children-care

[55] “KorinKorin  Bolit-Djak: Aboriginal health, wellbeing and safety strategic plan”, August 2017,  pp. 13 https://www2.health.vic.gov.au/about/health-strategies/aboriginal-health/korin-korin-balit-djak

[56] https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/children-care (AIHW 2017b, Table S42)

[57] SBS, 'Victoria's Andrews Labor Government has announced that Aboriginal organisations will be given responsibility of case management in Indigenous out-of-home care', 28 April 2018 https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2018/04/27/victorian-aboriginal-services-manage-out-home-care-cases

 

 

 

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