The Commission has taken another step towards establishing the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
The Assembly has been incorporated as a company limited by guarantee with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.
The Assembly constitution is now available here. This constitution will govern the operations of the Assembly. It reflects the model designed by community over the last three years, including the roles and responsibilities for members that have been advertised.
Traditional Owners elected in the current elections and those appointed by formally recognised Traditional Owner groups will become members of this company. At the first meeting they will have the option of standing for the executive (board) of the Assembly including as a Chair.
The first meeting of the Assembly is scheduled for Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th December in Melbourne. There will also be a pre-meeting to brief elected members about how the first meeting will run on Monday 9th December. All members will be expected to attend these meetings and it is recommended they block this out in their calendar now.
Elected members will be supported in their Assembly activities including through payment of a stipend or sitting fees, and support to travel to meetings and engage with communities.
Further information is provided below, but as always, candidates with any questions, are encouraged to call us at 1800 TREATY (87 32 89) option 2 to speak with the policy team, or email email@example.com. We are here to answer your questions.
Amendments to the Constitution
On 14 November 2019 the Constitution was amended, the amendments are designed to strengthen the Constitution and continues to reflect the model designed by community over the last three years. The amendments primarily address:
- feedback from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to support his declaration of the Assembly as the Aboriginal Representative Body, primarily by strengthening provisions that ensure natural justice and the Assembly's alignment with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities;
- addition to the Assembly’s “Objects” to better reflect the Assembly's purpose;
- creation of the position of Deputy Chair and option for the Assembly to either adopt leadership of a Chair and Deputy Chair or alternatively two Co-Chairs;
- technical issues identified in the document including adding additional clarity to certain provisions and streamlining the process to admit “Reserved Members”; and
- technical issues identified in the Election Rules (which are annexed to the Constitution), to come into effect for future elections.
For further information or a version of the Constitution showing the amendments, please contact us on 1800 TREATY (1800 87 23 89)
Questions about the incorporation of the Assembly
Why is the Assembly established as a corporation?
In developing the Assembly model, communities considered a range of options for how it should be structured including a statutory authority, Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act) corporation, an association or a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001.
Establishing the Assembly as a company limited by guarantee was preferred because it best ensures independence from government. As an independent company, government cannot control the structure, operations or decision making of the Assembly, and it cannot shut it down. If a future government chooses to withdraw funding, as a company the Assembly is best placed to seek alternate funding sources.
The Assembly constitution prevents members from treating the corporation as a private or for-profit company, and members cannot take profits from the Assembly.
What is the basic structure of the corporation?
The structure of the corporation reflects the model that has been developed by and presented back to community over the last three years. The main decision-making body of the Assembly is the 32 members of the company (21 general members appointed through the current elections and 11 members appointed by formally recognised traditional owner groups).
These members meet as the Assembly Chamber. The constitution requires that all major decisions on the development of the treaty process must be approved by the Chamber (ie the majority of members).
To run the day to day business of the Assembly, and implement decisions of the Chamber, the members will elect an executive of up to nine people including up to two chairs. This will be the board of the corporation. There must be a gender balance on the board and if there are two chairs, one must not be male.
The Assembly will be guided by an Elders’ Voice, the structure of which is still being developed in state-wide consultations with Elders.
The constitution contains a Members' Charter that sets out the expectations members must follow. These include attending meetings, acting respectfully and engaging with community regularly, including holding an open meeting at least once before each Assembly Chamber meeting (after the first meeting). All members will be supported by the Assembly to meet these obligations including through payment of sitting fees or stipend, and travel support.
The Assembly will employ a professional staff to provide advice and administrative support to the members and implement decisions of the Assembly.
Why has the Commission incorporated the Assembly now?
The constitution and the decision to establish the Assembly as a company limited by guarantee reflects the model that has been developed with community over the past three years.
To ensure the Assembly hits the ground running in December, the Assembly has to be registered as a company now. This means that successful candidates can be admitted as members and the Assembly can meet as soon as possible after the election results are known.
Why is the Assembly registered with the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), and not with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC)?
The decision to incorporate under the Corporations Act 2001 was determined by community consultations including the Community Assembly in 2017. Community decided that registration as a company limited by guarantee under the Corporations Act 2001 best guaranteed the independence of the Assembly from government.
Will the constitution incorporate Aboriginal cultural governance?
The Commission is continuing to work to incorporate elements of cultural governance into the document, however more importantly, the constitution will provide significant flexibility for the Assembly to determine their own procedures and ways of doing business. We believe this best reflects cultural governance.
Why does the Assembly have a constitution and not a rule book?
A constitution and a rule book serve the same purposes, they set the rules by which the organisation must operate. Rule books are generally used by companies registered under the CATSI Act, whereas constitutions are used by companies limited by guarantee incorporated under the Corporations Act 2001.
Why is the document so large, will I get assistance understanding it?
The structure of the Assembly, allowing for elections, statewide representation, and the discussions of treaty business, is by its nature quite complex. The Commission has sought to draft the constitution as clearly as possible and tried to use the language from CATSI Act style rule books as these are familiar to many in community.
Members will be supported in understanding the constitution through plain English summary documents, and the Assembly will have access to expert legal advice. If elected, you will receive a detailed briefing from our staff and a resources package before the first Assembly meeting.
If you have any questions about the constitution as a candidate, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Commission. Call us at 1800 TREATY (87 32 89) option 2 to speak with the policy team or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can people on the electoral roll change the constitution?
As the representatives of their communities only Assembly members will be able to change the constitution.
Assembly members are responsible to their local communities including those people on the Electoral Roll. Assembly members will be required to regularly engage with community across their voting region. This will ensure that the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continue to inform the work of the Assembly.
Will the Assembly have an Annual General Meeting?
As advised, the Assembly Chamber (all members) will be expected to meet 4-6 times a year to discuss business regarding advancing the treaty process. One of these meetings each year will constitute the Annual General Meeting. The Assembly members (those elected and those appointed by formally recognised traditional owner groups) are the only members of the corporation.
Who are the Initial Directors and what is their role?
In order to incorporate, the company required the appointment of initial members and directors.
The Commission has appointed Victorian Traditional Owners Eleanor Bourke, Dan Turnbull, and Vicki Clark as the Initial Directors and members as they are the Co-Chairs and Deputy Chair of the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group.
These members will serve as ‘caretakers’ until the election is complete and the 32 ongoing members of the Assembly are known. They will undertake administrative decisions to help set up the corporate structure but will not discuss or make any decisions related to treaty.
The constitution automatically removes these initial members once the election results are known.
Will the constitution undergo any further changes before the election results are known?
As consultations on the development of the Elders’ Voice of the Assembly are still underway there is placeholder text in the constitution. Once consultations are complete, depending on their outcome, there may be some further changes to the constitution before the Assembly Chamber (all members) meets in December. We will notify candidates if this happens.