Like many of you, I am gutted by the results of the Voice to Parliament referendum, though I take some small solace that out of the states, Victoria had the highest yes vote.
The overall result, however, has failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, who overwhelmingly voted yes – the First Nations vote was as high as 92 per cent in some seats.
But we should be very proud as Victorians about what’s happening in our own state.
Victoria was the first Australian jurisdiction to commit to and action all elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart: Voice, Treaty and Truth.
The First Peoples Assembly – an independent, democratically elected body to represent Traditional Owners of Country and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria – was established in 2019 to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians a voice in the Treaty process.
This process began in 2016, when the Andrews Labor Government committed to progressing Treaty with Victoria’s First Peoples.
In 2020, as part of the path to Treaty, the government committed to a truth-telling process, with The Yoorrook Justice Commission up and running by 2021.
With the First Peoples Assembly, Yoorrook Justice Commission, laws to protect Treaty, an independent Treaty umpire, rules and process for Treaty-making, and independent funding for negotiations all now established, the negotiations for Treaty will begin in 2024.
All of these things have happened, and are happening, without the sky falling down.
The Branch remains steadfast in its belief that the health and wellbeing of First Nations Australians will benefit from this continuing consultation with the people who know their communities best. I am pleased to report that as part of our commitment to learn from, and walk with, the First Peoples of Victoria, our Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan has now been conditionally endorsed by Reconciliation Australia, and work on its deliverables has commenced.
Solidarity and support
Through contact by our membership I know that for many these past few weeks have been, and will continue to be, difficult. On behalf of the Branch, I extend solidarity and support to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members, their families, friends and communities.
Any members who wish to do so are invited to share a message of solidarity and hope with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities: solidarityalways.ausunions.io.
Critically, the Branch also extends its solidarity to all members and communities directly or indirectly affected by the devastating crisis in the Middle East, and specifically to the Palestinian and Jewish communities across the state who may now be suffering. All Jewish and Palestinian peoples have the right to safety, free from violence and persecution, wherever they live – in Gaza, Israel and around the world.
The Branch has issued a statement condemning the escalating conflict, and calling for an immediate ceasefire; the release of all hostages; and for food, medical and aid supplies to be allowed into Gaza as a matter of urgency to ensure humanitarian agencies can deliver to those in dire need.
Our thoughts are with those health professionals and aid agency staff who are in extraordinary danger and are trying under horrific circumstances to treat and care for their community.
Members are also invited to join Union Aid Abroad’s email campaign to contact your local MP or Senators, asking them to advocate for a ceasefire and full humanitarian access.
EBA negotiations commence
Back home, the Branch has commenced negotiations for the 2024–2028 public sector EBA. The outcomes we achieve with the public sector EBA are relevant to all members, as they will serve as the benchmark for our negotiations with private sector and other employers.
You can find out more about how negotiating for better pay and conditions works at otr.anmfvic.asn.au/tags/know-the-eba-process.
All public sector members should be receiving regular updates about the 2024–2028 public sector EBA negotiations. Any public sector member who is not receiving updates should check and if required update their details on the member portal, and/or resubscribe to our communications (EBA updates, On the Record, enews). Please also speak with your local Job Reps.