We, the partners of this Agreement, acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples and Traditional Owners and custodians of the land and waterways upon which our lives depend. We acknowledge and pay our respects to ancestors of this country, Elders, knowledge holders and leaders – past, present and emerging. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are steeped in culture and lore having existed within Australia continuously for some 65,000 years. We acknowledge the ongoing leadership of Aboriginal communities across Victoria in striving to build on these strengths to address inequalities and improve Aboriginal justice outcomes.
Victorian Aboriginal communities and peoples are culturally diverse, with rich and varied heritages and histories both pre and post-invasion. The impacts of colonisation – while having devastating effects on the traditional life of Aboriginal Nations – have not diminished Aboriginal people’s connection to country, culture or community. These rich and varied histories need to be understood and acknowledged by all Victorians, to truly understand the resilience and strength of previous generations, as well as the history of the fight for survival, justice and country that has taken place across Victoria and around Australia.
Aboriginal communities across Victoria continue to build upon these strengths from day to day, demonstrating to governments of all persuasions the vital role of connectedness – to country, community and culture – in improving Aboriginal lives and enriching Victoria. At the heart of these processes are Aboriginal families.
The majority of Aboriginal people never have, and never will become involved in the criminal justice system as victims and/or offenders. However, it is important to recognise that the historical legacy of colonisation is still felt today and that the disruption experienced by Aboriginal families left many marginalised, disadvantaged and vulnerable to contact with the justice system. For the minority of Aboriginal people who do become involved in the criminal justice system, their experiences not only adversely affect the individuals involved, but significantly impact their families and the communities to which they belong.
As we work together to improve Aboriginal justice outcomes, support families and make communities safer, we acknowledge the invaluable contributions of all those who have gone before us, who have fought tirelessly for the rights of Aboriginal people including the right to self-determination, and paved the way for this Agreement.
We give our gratitude to the many Aboriginal people who generously contributed their wisdom, experience, expertise and cultural authority during the development of this Agreement. We also acknowledge the valuable input of many non-Aboriginal people who generously contributed to its development.