First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria North-East district candidate: Geraldine AtkinsonBy Ashlea Witoslawski
The fight for sovereignty and self-determination continues with the establishment of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
Set to stand as a voice for indigenous people throughout the treaty process, the assembly will consist of 32 seats, 21 of which will be determined by a voting system undertaken by indigenous Victorians.
Our region, known as the North-East region, has three seats designated with nine candidates up for election.
The News will interview these individuals to hear their story and learn more about their motivations for joining the assembly.
Ash Witoslawski reports.
Occupation: Worked in the education and early childhood sector for more than 40 years.
Indigenous heritage: Bangerang
What inspired you to become a candidate?
I wanted to work with the government to ensure we create a good treaty process for the Aboriginal community. The process is working but we can still do a lot better, particularly when it comes to children. In regards to early childhood education and care, we need a great deal more assistance. We need to ensure everyone has access to childcare. I want to be able to negotiate programs at a state level. Child protection is still a big issue. We have a high number of children being removed from families so we need to do better with intervention and prevention. Children need to remain in kinship care in the community to retain their culture and identity.
What changes/improvements would you like to see for indigenous people in the North-East district?
We need more education within schools in regards to cultural understanding. What we're doing at the moment, training within our region and schools, is a good start and I want to continue that, particularly sharing heritage within early childhood education. We need to be teaching this to obliterate racism so the community has a better understanding of First Nations people and culture and shows the respect they deserve. We've been able to make sure children have access to preschool so that's been really great but there is still work to be done and we really need to be reaching out into the community. We need to provide more early childhood education if we want to keep working towards closing the gap, we have to start with our babies and then families.
Why is treaty important for you?
We have to be able to come to the table and have equal status with the state government. The First Peoples’ Assembly is about setting up the treaty process and working out how we can best prepare the community and government to work out a treaty process that is going to be fair and equitable for our people.
Why would you be a good representative for the district?
I have worked in the community my whole life and have an established career in the region. I've grown up here and I want to make sure programs are established to make sure Aboriginal rights are the same as others in regards to employment, health, education and housing. Having also worked in this region in the areas of justice and family violence, I have experience working to create better processes as well as lobbying against both the state and federal governments to get better outcomes for our families.
Voting will be open from Monday, September 16, until Sunday, October 20.
Victorian Aboriginal community members from the age of 16 are eligible to vote.
For more information, visit firstpeoplesvic.org
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