'Big step': Voting opens for Victorian treaty elections

·2-min read

Indigenous Victorians are set begin voting on their representatives for treaty negotiations with the state government.

Voting opens on Saturday with 74 traditional owners standing as candidates for the second term of the democratically-elected First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria.

Outgoing assembly co-chair Aunty Geraldine Atkinson, who will be among the first to cast a ballot, described it as a "big step".

She said the strength and determination of her people since colonisation had led to this moment.

"Treaty will soon be a reality," the Bangerang and Wiradjuri elder said ahead of a special ceremony in Fitzroy North.

"Aboriginal people are the experts on our own lives, we know what we need to create a better future for our people.

"Treaty is about restoring our freedom and power to make the decisions that affect us. But what issues treaty covers, how strong it will be, depends on mob getting involved in these elections."

All Aboriginal people in the state are encouraged to have their say by voting.

"These elections are our opportunity to choose who will be sitting across from government when treaty negotiations begin later this year," Ms Atkinson said.

Alongside the statewide treaty talks, the newly-elected assembly will help traditional owner groups negotiate their own treaties.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from Victoria or living within the state can cast their vote in person, online or through the post.

The final day of voting is on June 3 and will be marked by a concert featuring an First Nations line-up including Yothu Yindi, Jessica Mauboy and Thelma Plum.

It comes after Child Protection Minister Lizzie Blandthorn appeared before the Yoorrook Justice Commission on Friday, where she apologised for the forced removal of Indigenoud children.

Yoorrook is the first formal truth-telling inquiry into past and ongoing injustices against Indigenous people in Victoria, and is running in concert with the state's treaty process.