2019 Victorian First Peoples’ Assembly election
An election to elect representatives to the First Peoples' Assembly in the Australian state of Victoria is underway. The election will fill seats to the body which will be charged with the responsibility to prepare for negotiations with the Government of Victoria about a treaty with the state's Aboriginal population.
The voting period is between 16 September and 20 October 2019. Only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in Victoria and at least 16 years of age are eligible to vote in the election.
In June 2018 the Victorian Parliament passed legislation to create a framework for negotiating a treaty with Aboriginal people. The legislation was supported by the Labor Government and the Greens, though not by the two opposition parties, the Liberal and National parties. The legislation included provisions to create an Aboriginal representative body and its implementation was overseen by the Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission. The lead-up to the vote was not without controversy, as it occurred amidst the Andrews Labor Government's planned duplication of the Western Highway near Ararat. The duplication plans included a proposal to disrupt a cultural site with trees sacred to Aboriginal people in the area. A protest on the steps of Parliament House included protesters with signs saying "no trees, no treaty".
The Assembly will be filled by 32 representatives, the majority of which will be elected in five regions; 9 from Melbourne region, 3 from Western Victoria region, 3 from North-Western region, 3 from Northern region, and 3 from Eastern region. A further 11 seats will be reserved for formally recognised Traditional Owner Groups. 73 people nominated for the Assembly and approximately 30,000 people were eligible to vote. To vote, eligible voters were first required to enrol online and provide evidence of identity, age and residence. Voting opened on 16 September and closed on 20 October 2019, and voters could cast a ballot online, by post or at one of 43 polling booths across Victoria.
Once elected, the Assembly will not be responsible for negotiating a treaty or multiple treaties with the Victorian government on behalf of Aboriginal clans and nations. Instead the Assembly's primary responsibilities will be to:
- Establish the Treaty Authority – an independent umpire in any negotiation process
- Establish the Treaty Negotiating Framework – a body which will set the ground rules for negotiations and authorises who may negotiate on behalf of certain people/clans
- Establish the Self-Determination Fund – to support Aboriginal communities to be on an even playing field with government when treaties are being negotiated
The 32 successful candidates have yet to be announced. The first meeting of the Assembly will take place on 10 December 2019 at Parliament House, Melbourne.
- "Voting opens for representatives to Victoria's First Peoples' Assembly". The Guardian. 16 September 2019.
- "Victorian treaty negotiations move closer as voting opens for First Peoples' Assembly". ABC News. 16 September 2019.
- "Treaty: About". firstpeoplesvic.org.
- "Victoria passes historic law to create Indigenous treaty framework". The Guardian. 22 June 2018.
- "About the Commission". victreatyadvancement.org.au.
- "Western Highway sacred trees protest comes to steps of Victorian Parliament". ABC News. 10 September 2019.
- "Victorian treaty vote for First Peoples' Assembly delivers a different kind of state election". ABC News. 6 October 2019.
- "Vote". First Peoples Victoria.
- "First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria". Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission.
- "Self-determination arrives at the centre of a colonial power structure". Victorian Treaty Advancement Commission. 31 October 2019.