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Treaty negotiation funding open for Victorian Traditional Owner groups

Dechlan Brennan -

Victoria's movement towards self-determination has progressed, with applications for financial support opening for Traditional Owners of Country.

The Self-Determination Fund was implemented during the first term of the First Peoples' Assembly and is designed to help Traditional Owners negotiate Treaty with the Victorian government on an even playing field.

On Friday, the Assembly announced Traditional Owners can apply for up to $200,000 in funding.

In November, Assembly Co-Chair and Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman, Ngarra Murray, said the funding could be used for a variety of purposes.

"Some groups might look at using the funds to employ a Treaty Manager or Organiser to have the yarns with their community and start developing the cultural governance structures and decision-making processes," she said.

The allocation of funds is managed by the Self-Determination Fund committee, all of whom are First Peoples with experience in financial and government roles. The fund itself is overseen by, and reports to, the Assembly.

Committee chair and Assembly member for the South-East Region, Troy McDonald, said the allocation of funding would allow mob from across the state to access the shared resource and help prepare for Treaty negotiations.

"This first round of funding available will provide practical assistance to Traditional Owner groups who want to start reflecting on what they want Treaty to deliver in their own areas and what priorities they will be pushing for," the Gunaikurnai man said.

The Assembly has previously said the fund will take an "inclusive and flexible approach to the definition of Traditional Owner Group," guided by definitions laid out by the Treaty Negotiation Framework.

Whilst Treaty is being pursued by the Assembly with the Victorian government and overseen by independent umpires; the fund offers scope for individual groups to pursue negotiations with the government that "reflect aspirations and priorities specific to their areas".

The Assembly argues this will help create long-term prosperity for Indigenous Victorians.

Mr McDonald said the work put into the fund's development will foster flexibility and accessibility for the different Traditional Owner groups in the state to pursue Treaty at their own pace.

"We've always said Treaty needs to bridge the economic divide caused by colonisation and having this shared resource to help directly empower Aboriginal communities to implement solutions at a local level is really going to help those efforts," he said.

Last month saw guidelines released for the Self-Determination Fund, outlining a series of phases for Treaty negotiations. The first two of these are the forming of Treaty aspirations and Pre-Treaty Preparation.

Applications will be open for 2 years or until the funding allocation is exhausted.

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