First Peoples in Victoria are strong and self-determining — key initiatives

This objective focuses on improving outcomes and services for First Peoples through prioritising actions to enable self-determination, including advancing treaty, protecting and promoting cultural rights and conducting a truth telling process. It addresses trauma and supports healing; addresses racism established through colonisation; and provides culturally safe systems and services. It also transfers power and resources to communities.

DPC’s outcomes on the following key initiatives helped us achieve the ‘First Peoples in Victoria are strong and self-determining’ strategic objective.

Advance Aboriginal self-determination in line with the commitments made in the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018–2023 and the Victorian Closing the Gap Implementation Plan 2021–2023

Throughout 2021–22 DPC has continued to progress whole of government self-determination reform in line with the VAAF and the Victorian Closing the Gap Implementation Plan 2021–2023.

DPC undertook extensive engagement with departments and the Aboriginal sector to develop the Victorian Government Aboriginal Affairs Report 2021, an important accountability mechanism that measures whole of government progress to improve outcomes for and with First Peoples. The delivery and tabling of the 2021 Aboriginal Affairs Report was postponed, relieving pressure on departments due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and is expected to be tabled in parliament in September 2022. It incorporates reporting against the VAAF, the Self-Determination Reform Framework and, for the first time, the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. DPC has also established a VAAF Data Dashboard, which will be updated following the tabling of the Aboriginal Affairs Report to promote community access to local data.

DPC also supported the establishment of the new Closing the Gap Partnership Forum in early 2022. The Partnership Forum consists of 13 representative Aboriginal community-controlled organisations elected to represent their sector, nominated delegates from Aboriginal Governance Forums and senior departmental executives.

Progress the Victorian Government’s negotiation of the treaty process with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, in line with the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018

In 2021–22 DPC continued to lead negotiations with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria and drive whole of government reform to progress the government’s commitment to treaty including:

  • executing the historic Treaty Authority Agreement and introducing the Treaty Authority Bill to parliament in early June 2022. The Treaty Authority will act as the ‘independent umpire’ for the treaty process and is innovative and unique to Victoria’s treaty process. Its design has been led by the Assembly, who have consulted across community to determine the most appropriate model to support a fair and effective treaty negotiation process
  • negotiating features of a Treaty Negotiation Framework and a Self-Determination Fund with the Assembly, which are required before Victoria can move to the next phase of the treaty process and begin negotiations on a treaty or treaties between the government and Aboriginal negotiating parties
  • leading work across the Victorian Government to inform the State’s position in negotiating treaty elements and support institutional change required as part of the treaty process, including through coordinating a Treaty Interdepartmental Committee. The committee is an interdepartmental working-level network of Treaty Coordinators, delivering 25 presentations on treaty and rolling out Treaty Microcertifications from the University of Melbourne across the VPS
  • preparing the Treaty Annual Report as required under the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act. The report outlines the work of the State in advancing the treaty process, ensuring the government is transparent in its work to advance treaty in Victoria.

Lead the whole of Victorian Government response to the historic Yoorrook Justice Commission, the first ever truth-telling inquiry into the historical and ongoing systemic injustices committed against Aboriginal Victorians since colonisation

Since May 2021 the Yoorrook Justice Commission has been investigating historical and ongoing injustices perpetrated against First Peoples since colonisation by State and non-State entities, across all areas of social, political and economic life. Yoorrook is the Wemba Wemba / Wamba Wamba word for ‘truth’.

In 2021–22 DPC played a central role in coordinating the whole of government response to and engagement with the Yoorrook Justice Commission. DPC progressed key activities to fulfil its role in meeting the State’s commitment to genuine, transparent and proactive engagement with the commission including:

  • establishing and coordinating an interdepartmental committee, a whole of government working group and the DPC Yoorrook Justice Commission Response Network to provide governance oversight
  • developing and implementing a suite of processes, policies and guidance to support the State and DPC’s response to the commission
  • coordinating the State’s and DPC’s response to Notices to Produce issued by the commission under the Inquiries Act 2014 and supporting the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples in her appearance before the commission
  • coordinating the tabling of the commission’s Interim Report in parliament.

Drive and support strong cultural heritage management and protection including supporting Traditional Owners and the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council and acquitting DPC’s statutory functions

DPC has ongoing responsibilities working with First Peoples to protect and manage Victoria’s Aboriginal cultural heritage.

DPC performs statutory functions under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, recognising the leading role of strong and engaged Traditional Owners in Victoria’s progressive Aboriginal cultural heritage protection system. The important work of Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) is central to Victoria’s system. Unlike other jurisdictions, Traditional Owners via RAPs are given direct and substantial statutory decision-making functions, which are supported by DPC through operational funding and policy, cultural heritage management, enforcement and ICT support.

In 2021–22 DPC has supported cultural heritage management and protection by:

  • providing the necessary assistance to ensure RAPs were properly supported in their independent statutory role in the approval of 479 cultural heritage management plans last financial year
  • directly evaluating 136 cultural heritage management plans in areas for which there is no RAP
  • adding 822 Aboriginal places to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register
  • providing expert advice to government relating to Aboriginal cultural heritage protection matters both within Victoria and nationally
  • supporting processes to consider ongoing protection for significant Aboriginal cultural landscapes such as Ghow Swamp — an area of considerable traditional cultural significance as well as global archaeological significance
  • providing secretariat support to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, comprised of up to 11 Traditional Owners, including resourcing the council with specialist staff to oversee the protection and repatriation of Aboriginal ancestral remains
  • enforcing compliance with the Act through a dedicated Compliance and Enforcement Unit (see also Section 4 — Appendix 6).

Deliver the Aboriginal Community Infrastructure Program to enable Aboriginal organisations to meet their infrastructure needs and serve their communities

From 2017–18 to 2021–22 the Aboriginal Community Infrastructure Program has funded 73 Aboriginal community infrastructure projects to the value of $28.819 million to build or repair, refurbish or expand existing infrastructure. Further projects will be announced following the program’s sixth funding round.

In 2021–22 DPC, in partnership with the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, delivered 2 funding rounds. The fifth funding round closed on 6 September 2021 and attracted 32 applications, with 13 projects funding a total of $7.9 million new infrastructure projects. The sixth funding round closed on 9 May 2022 and was announced in August 2022, with 21 Aboriginal organisations sharing $11 million to build or upgrade community infrastructure.

Support the recognition of Traditional Owner groups by driving nation-building initiatives, particularly to support non-formally recognised Traditional Owner groups

DPC has continued to support the Nation-Building Package in partnership with First Nations Legal & Research Services and the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations. The package supports both formally and non-formally recognised Traditional Owner groups across Victoria so they can prepare for and participate in the treaty process and deliver on statutory and cultural responsibilities.

The 2021–22 State Budget invested $11.12 million over 2 years in the package, building on $13.58 million allocated in the 2019–20 State Budget. It has a strong focus on supporting Traditional Owner groups without formal recognition in the Mid North West, Central North, North East and Far East Gippsland regions of Victoria.

In 2021–22 support provided under the package included:

  • $120,000 in grants, with a further $55,000 in direct support to Traditional Owners without formal recognition
  • n five facilitation and Indigenous governance workshops, and 50 online and in-person information and planning workshops held with applicants
  • $1.207 million for First Nations Legal & Research Services to employ staff to work directly with Traditional Owners seeking formal recognition, independent of government
  • more than $1.2 million in grant funding to extend Traditional Owner Engagement Officers in RAPs until June 2023, to support the nation-building and treaty readiness aspirations of RAPs
  • $1.654 million to the federation for core funding, the Resource Pool, and administration of the Resource Pool. The Resource Pool provides funding for each formally recognised Traditional Owner group for nation-building and treaty readiness activities and cultural heritage-related projects.

Progress and fulfil the statutory responsibilities of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council

DPC has continued to provide secretariat and operational support to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, which has statutory responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act including to make decisions on RAP applications and oversee RAP operations. The council is also responsible for protecting and returning Ancestors to Country, for repatriating Secret and Sacred Objects to their Traditional Owners and helping to promote awareness and understanding of Aboriginal culture.

In 2021–22 DPC supported the council to:

  • run the Taking Control of Our Heritage Conference in October 2021 — this conference provided an integral forum for Traditional Owners, cultural heritage practitioners and academics to discuss cultural heritage protections, both nationally and locally, with a focus on ensuring Traditional Owners remain central to these processes
  • make a determination about RAP status for the Melbourne CBD, along with Country and waters to the east and west, which are now formally cared for and protected by Traditional Owners.

Progress towards achieving the objective

The output performance measures that provide information on DPC’s progress in achieving the ‘First Peoples in Victoria are strong and self-determining’ strategic objective are outlined below.

Objective indicator: First Peoples in Victoria have increased control over decisions that impact their lives

Performance measure





Capacity-building activities provided for Traditional Owners to support the management and protection of Aboriginal cultural and intangible heritage





Participation of Aboriginal people in Local Aboriginal Networks





Further details on DPC’s 2021–22 performance against its output performance measures are covered on pages 47–61.