While building on the previous Agreements and successful initiatives implemented under them, Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja reflects current Aboriginal community aspirations for greater self-determination and significant structural and system change. This means realising Aboriginal aspirations for change, in particular progressing self-determination towards a justice system which values, promotes and requires greater involvement of Aboriginal communities in decision-making, program design and delivery.
The importance of self-determination
The Victorian Government is committed to self-determination as the guiding principle in Aboriginal affairs, and government heard directly from Victorian Aboriginal communities about their desire for greater self-determination within the justice system. Work towards self-determination and Treaty is creating a new relationship between the Victorian Government and Aboriginal communities, which will empower Aboriginal communities to achieve long-term generational change and improved outcomes.
The Victorian Government’s work on self-determination is guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which defines self-determination as a range of collective rights to determine one’s political status and economic, social and cultural development. These include rights to non-discrimination, cultural integrity, control over land and resources, social welfare and development and self-government.[i]
The 2017 report on Aboriginal self-determination and the Victorian justice system, prepared for the Aboriginal Justice Caucus by the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research confirms that:
“The evidence is settled that self-determination is the only strategy that has generated the sustainable wellbeing – cultural, physical, spiritual, economic and social – that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the broader community desire. Self-determination relates to the capacity of the Aboriginal community itself to determine its preferred future and to create the human, institutional and financial infrastructure to bring those aspirations into being”[ii]
The Aboriginal Justice Caucus has been clear in stating that Aboriginal self-determination is a matter for Aboriginal people. Therefore, the process of furthering self-determination in justice must be led by Aboriginal people in Victoria.
In terms of government policy, there are clear reasons why embedding Aboriginal self-determination is the strongest foundation for the future effectiveness of service delivery to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal justice outcomes:
- Aboriginal people understand the issues of concern and priority in their local areas.
- Involvement of Aboriginal people ensures community buy-in and culturally appropriate solutions.
- Inclusion of Aboriginal people builds community and social capital.
- Involvement of Aboriginal people increases potential for creation of culturally sensitive spaces and improved cultural competency of non-Aboriginal staff.
- Aboriginal people are able to use their networks to engage people in programs and services who may not otherwise participate.
- Aboriginal people can use their community networks to work across agencies in communities[iii].
[i] Behrendt L, Jorgensen M, Vivian A 2017, Self-Determination: Background Concepts – Scoping paper 1, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney, prepared for Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria State Government, . pp.6-7
[ii] Behrendt L, Jorgensen M, Vivian A, 2017, Self-Determination within the Justice Context, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology Sydney, prepared for Department of Justice and Regulation, Victoria State Government., pp.5.
[iii] ibid, pp.4-5.