Relationships with Aboriginal organisations

Why is this important?

The strength of the Aboriginal community is reflected in the range of Aboriginal organisations and networks across the state. Aboriginal organisations are vital to the health, wellbeing and liveliness of the Aboriginal community. They are often focal points for the local Aboriginal community and the broader service sector, and are well placed to work with councils.

It is important that councils engage with the breadth of Aboriginal organisations with an interest in their municipality as they each reflect specific interests and expertise.

Key Aboriginal organisations and networks that closely interface with local government include:

  • Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations – Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) deliver a range of services (health, welfare, justice, housing, community services, arts) and are often a focal point within a community. Developing close links with ACCOs enables councils to improve access by Aboriginal people to services and programs.
  • Local and Regional Aboriginal community engagement structures – The Aboriginal community operates a number of engagement structures to ensure it is inclusive of members of its community, for example in justice, family violence and education. There is benefit in inviting representatives from these structures to participate on local council committees responsible for setting relevant local policies and programs.
  • Traditional Owners – Traditional Owners are Aboriginal people who have an ongoing relationship with their traditional country that precedes European settlement. Developing relationships with Traditional Owners is an important way for councils to strengthen cultural heritage and land management outcomes.
  • Registered Aboriginal Parties – The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council appoints Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) to protect and manage cultural heritage under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Effective operation of cultural heritage and planning processes requires strong relationships between RAPs and local councils.
  • Peak and Statewide bodies – There are a number of organisations that represent Victoria’s Aboriginal community priorities and/or provide services in locations across the state. These include the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited, Aborigines Advancement League, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc and Aboriginal Housing Victoria.
  • Local Aboriginal Networks (LANs)Local Aboriginal Networks (LANs) are an initiative of the Victorian Government.  There are 39 LANs that operate across the State to identify local priorities and organise community activities.


What can your council do?

Local government can strengthen relationships with Aboriginal organisations and people through their engagement processes, employment practices and in the delivery of services. This may be informed by:

  • Developing engagement policies or protocols in partnership with Aboriginal community organisations represented in the council’s area
  • Inviting Aboriginal organisations to participate in council forums and other committees and in consultation about the development of council’s plans, policies and strategies
  • Employing Aboriginal people
  • Encouraging Aboriginal community participation in consultation about the development of councils plans, policies and strategies
  • Developing partnerships with the local ACCO around the delivery of services
  • Establishing an Aboriginal advisory committee
  • Attending Aboriginal community meetings and functions where invited
  • Supporting Aboriginal community access to council facilities and programs


The 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Survey found that most councils broadly engage with Aboriginal organisations on a range of specific activities, such as health services, sport and recreation, child care, legal and justice services, and culture and the arts.

“We tend to work collaboratively with the local Aboriginal organisations to deliver services, rather than provide a specific service to the Aboriginal community. In order to promote real reconciliation we are working WITH the Aboriginal community and organisations rather delivering services TO or FOR them as a separate part of the community”

– Glenelg Shire Council, reported in the 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal and Reconciliation Survey

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