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Closing the Gap Joint Council meet for first time post-referendum

Jarred Cross -

Victoria's Minister for Treaty and First Peoples and key delegates in the state have declared the fight to shift the dial on positive outcomes has not ended despite October's unsuccessful Voice referendum, with key goals in place before the end of the current government's term.

The Joint Council for Closing the Gap held their first meeting following the result in Naarm on Thursday.

State ministers responsible for Indigenous affairs, federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, and Coalition of peaks, local government and First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria representatives attended the gathering.

Recently re-appointed Minister for Treaty and First Peoples Natalia Hutchins said her government "remains steadfast in our commitment in progressing voice, truth and treaty with our First Peoples".

The Minister said shared effort in realising that journey would benefit all Victorians, and acknowledged pain felt by many Indigenous Australians following the majority no vote.

The First People's Assembly of Victoria recently mapped out next steps in establishing the Treaty after entering its second term earlier this year.

Speaking on Thursday, Minister Hutchins also pointed to the ongoing work of Yoorook - "the nations first formal truth-telling process" and flagged the launch of an independent umpire in Treaty process to come "in the coming months".

"On the basis of this architecture, the state hopes to negotiate a statewide Treaty before the end of our term in 2026."

Co-chair of Ngaweeyan Maar-oo (Voice of the People) - the Koori Caucus of Victoria's Partnership Forum towards Closing the Gap, Lisa Briggs, said the journey towards better outcomes is "gaining momentum" despite being "challenging work".

Victoria's implementation plan towards Closing the Gap has four priority areas; Formal partnerships and shared decision-making; Building the community-controlled sector; Transforming government organisations; and Shared access to data and information at a regional level.

"The priority reforms are intended to drive the structural changes needed to see meaningful improvements," Ms Briggs said.

First People's Assembly co-chair Ngurra Murray said the assembly wants input on policy, and to see decision making in community.

"We believe decisions about Aboriginal people should be made by Aboriginal people. Not just because it's morally right, but it delivers better outcomes," Ms Murray said.

"My message to government is if you want to close the gaps, then give everyone an equal opportunity to implement our solutions.

She said while "we can't change history", there is a need to address ongoing impacts of colonisation negatively affecting First Nations people.

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