Why is this important?
Developing Aboriginal engagement policies and protocols provides council and the Aboriginal community with a framework to guide their relationship.
Clear processes of engagement with the Aboriginal community are a vital step in developing trust and enabling the community to influence the work of council, ensuring it reflects the needs and priorities of the local Aboriginal community. This will strengthen council’s ability to improve outcomes for all community members.
Engagement policies and protocols should respect the role of different Aboriginal community groups, and outline the basis of this relationship. They may outline consultative processes, or establish mechanisms for engagement such as an advisory committee to council.
Engagement policies and protocols should be developed in consultation with the relevant Aboriginal community groups.
Regional cooperation between councils can also be important in improving relationships between local government and Aboriginal communities.
Councils come together for a variety of reasons. Some groupings are regionally based, others based on shared circumstances (e.g. Rural Councils Victoria, Peri Urban Councils, Growth Area Councils).
The boundaries or areas serviced by Traditional Owner groups, Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, and Local Indigenous Networks may cover a number of municipalities. Relationships between these organisations and local government may often be most practical and respectful through regional cooperation and approaches.
What can your council do?
Councils can develop Aboriginal engagement policies and protocols to strengthen relationships with the Aboriginal community. These can include:
- protocols that cover relationships with Traditional Owners around Acknowledgement and Welcome to Country ceremonies
- protocols with Registered Aboriginal Parties around council’s planning processes, assessment of capital works projects and the management of Aboriginal heritage places and collections
- policies that govern the role and membership of advisory committees
- development of partnerships or Memorandums of Understanding that strengthen the relationships with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations.
Councils can cooperate in a number of ways with each other to strengthen their relationships with Aboriginal communities. This can include:
- Participate in existing or create new regional networks focussed on Aboriginal issues
- Participate in and sponsor regional Aboriginal forums or conferences (e.g. Deadly in Gippsland Conference)
- Work with relevant councils to develop joint protocols with Aboriginal community organisations and other structures.
The 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Survey found that some councils had specific engagement policies or protocols. Others reported they had developed action or inclusion plans.