Aboriginal body to focus on unity

By John Lewis

The independent organisation that will support Aboriginal communities to negotiate a treaty has been named and a $15000 competition prize to design a logo for the new organisation has been announced.

The First Peoples Assembly of Victoria, which was previously known as the Aboriginal Representative Body, will begin operating this year.

Treaty Advancement Commissioner Jill Gallagher said the assembly would bring people together for a common cause.

‘‘It will be powerful, independent and culturally strong. We feel the name reflects this,’’ Ms Gallagher said.

She said the commission was inviting the Victorian Aboriginal community to design a logo for the new assembly.

‘‘The assembly will be owned by the community. It’ll be your voice, and we want you to help build it,’’ Ms Gallagher said.

Treaty Working Group co-chairwoman Eleanor Bourke said this year would be one where Aboriginal Victorians would take a big step forward.

‘‘For the first time in 230 years, Victoria could have a treaty between a government in Australia and first peoples,’’ Ms Bourke said.

Ms Gallagher said the commission had heard community feedback and had changed the operating model proposed in September last year.

Victorian traditional owners who live interstate will be able to vote.

The minimum number of elected members for each electorate has increased to three, to reflect best practice.

There are five electorates, rather than six, and every electorate covers the country of multiple traditional owner groups.

Ms Gallagher said these changes did not affect the reserved seats for formally recognised traditional owner groups.

She said the commission was working separately on ways of supporting traditional owner groups that were yet to achieve formal recognition.

The assembly will be made up of 33 Victorian traditional owners (21 elected, and 12 from formally recognised traditional owner groups).

Ms Gallagher said the assembly would begin its work this year.