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Self-determination underpins new Aboriginal affairs framework

Victoria has released a framework to guide the next five years of work with the Indigenous community, setting out 20 goals to help close the gap.

The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework 2018-2023 sets out an overarching approach to “hold government accountable for what is being done to address historical wrongs and promote a future shaped by self-determination”, in the government’s words.

It commits the public sector to a shared vision: “All Aboriginal Victorian people, families and communities are healthy, safe, resilient, thriving and living culturally rich lives.”

The framework aims to drive transformation of structures and systems through government action to:

  • Prioritise culture
  • Address trauma and support healing
  • Address racism and promote cultural safety
  • Transfer power and resources to communities

Like previous frameworks, it lays out the state’s approach to Aboriginal affairs, but this version “represents a new way of doing business”, said Premier Daniel Andrews.

“A new approach to Aboriginal affairs, with the voices of Aboriginal people at its heart. Because, a decade on from the Closing the Gap agreement, there is no more evident truth: we only achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal people when that all-important work is led by Aboriginal people.”

The Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework turns the spotlight on government “and what actions must be taken to address the enduring impacts of colonisation”, says Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Natalie Hutchins.

“The new VAAF recognises that positive change must involve government transforming to deliver culturally safe and community-owned services and programs.”

The framework is the product of extensive engagement with Victorian Aboriginal community and organisations, across both regional and metropolitan Victoria. Community consultation forums were held across the state with over 600 members of the Victorian Aboriginal community providing feedback.

Victorian Aboriginal Affairs Framework action logic.

Goals

The framework includes 20 goals, which will be supported by a new accountability measure, centred around an Aboriginal-led evaluation and review process designed with Aboriginal Victorians.

Children, family and home:

  • Aboriginal children are born healthy and thrive
  • Aboriginal children are raised by Aboriginal families
  • Aboriginal families and households thrive

Learning and skills:

  • Aboriginal children thrive in the early years
  • Aboriginal learners excel at school
  • Aboriginal learners are engaged at school
  • Aboriginal learners achieve their full potential after school

Opportunity and prosperity:

  • Aboriginal workers achieve wealth equality
  • Strong Aboriginal workforce participation, in all sectors and at all levels
  • Aboriginal income potential is realised

Health and wellbeing:

  • Aboriginal Victorians enjoy health and longevity
  • Aboriginal Victorians access the services they need
  • Health and community services are culturally safe and responsive
  • Aboriginal Victorians enjoy social and emotion wellbeing

Justice and safety

  • Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system is eliminated
  • Aboriginal Victorians have access to safe and effective justice services
  • Aboriginal Victorians feel safe and connected

Culture and country

  • Aboriginal land, water and cultural rights are realised
  • Aboriginal culture and language are supported and celebrated
  • Racism is eliminated
The framework’s 20 goals.

Key indicators show mixed results

The government also launched the 2018 Aboriginal Affairs Report, which examines how Aboriginal people are faring across a range of key indicators.

Results are mixed. While the gaps in the perinatal mortality rate and kindergarten enrolments have effectively been closed, the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care is rising, currently sitting at 8.5 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children.

Efforts to halve the gap in students’ reading, writing and literacy is “not on track”.

Economic empowerment is lagging. In 2016, 58% of Aboriginal Victorians were participating in the labour force, compared to 65% of non-Aboriginal Victorians.

The government has, however, met its target of increasing the proportion of Aboriginal staff to 1% of the public service. A new target of Aboriginal staff comprising 2% of the VPS by 2022 was set in 2017 under Barring Djinang, the five-year Aboriginal employment strategy for the public sector. “Significant effort will be required to meet this new target by 2022,” the report notes.

To make data more accessible, the government will also develop a public data platform.

Author Bio

David Donaldson

David Donaldson is a journalist at The Mandarin based in Melbourne.