|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
After the transfer of functions under the provisions of the Commonwealth Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Act 1973 (No.115) and the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs (Transfer of Functions) Act (No.8608) the Commonwealth assumed legislative power to administer "aboriginal affairs" and undertook major responsibility for funding, though State departments and Ministers continued to provide health, housing, education, employment and welfare services for Aborigines.
Though an Aboriginal Affairs Unit was established within the Premier's Department (VA 2717) from 1975 to administer State sponsorship of economic development and cultural initiatives and to co-ordinate State policy relating to Aborigines, this agency has been dated from 1985 when it was first located in the Ministry of Planning and Environment (VA 1024) as this is when the co-ordination of the state policy function with the cultural heritage and aboriginal archaeology functions was first implemented.
As at 1993 the functions administered by Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria can be described as :
* managing grants programs for Aboriginal cultural heritage and capital projects that will help Aboriginal communities by promoting economic, social and cultural development.
* protecting aboriginal cultural heritage through aboriginal archaeology programs.
* working with other Victorian Government agencies to ensure that the needs of Aboriginal people are reflected in policy and program development.
* consulting with the Aboriginal community, State and Commonwealth Government agencies and local authorities.
Development of Aboriginal Affairs Functions during the 1980s
Over time the nature of the functions carried out by Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria has altered. After 1985 the focus of the Unit was very much on the protection of aboriginal cultural heritage and the co-ordination of state policy relating to aboriginal affairs. This was achieved through the placement of the Aboriginal Affairs Unit within the Ministry for Planning and Environment (VA 1024) which also had responsibility for State archaeological functions under the Archaeological and Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1972. Protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage was also linked to the general cultural and heritage protection responsibilities which the Ministry undertook as part of its overall planning functions.
Protection of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and Funding of Aboriginal Capital Projects
New legislation to provide adequate protection for Aboriginal cultural material including oral history, sites and objects of religious or cultural significance was developed in conjunction with the Commonwealth during this period (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Heritage Protection Act 1987). The aim of this act is to give local Aboriginal communities control over matters relating to their cultural heritage and responsibility for public awareness of aboriginal culture. It also encourages Aboriginal communities to be directly involved in the protection of objects and places of religious, historical or cultural significance through a State and Commonwealth grants allocation process to fund various capital projects.
Other cultural heritage projects undertaken during this period include the Koori Oral History Program; National Aboriginal Week activities; Aboriginal Site surveys and assessments in conjunction with local Aboriginal communities and co-operatives; and the production of cultural awareness information kits.
The Unit also had co-ordination responsibility in relation to the recommendations of the Interim Report of the Commonwealth Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody after December 1988.
Funds were made available for various capital projects with the aim of encouraging Aboriginal self-management and economic independence and sponsoring cultural heritage and social development projects which were not the responsibility of other agencies. Such projects included:
- purchase of Crisis Accommodation for sobering-up centres in Mildura, Morwell and Warrnambool
- development of craft/tourism/community centre in Echuca
- construction of administrative centre at Lake Tyers
- improvements to tourism/community centre at Cann River
- purchase of property for a building company in Melbourne
- title for land and Community Centre, Bairnsdale made over to the Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-operative
- purchase of land for an enterprise/cultural development in Bahmah.
The Aboriginal Land (Framlingham Forest and Lake Condah Act 1987 [Commonwealth] was also developed during this period. This Act relates to two pieces of traditional Aboriginal land which were reserved in the 19th century for mission stations. Descendants of the Aborigines who lived on these missions and still live on the same land in the 20th century obtained inalienable title to the land under the legislation.
The Victoria Archaeological Survey had primary responsibility for state archaeological functions, including aboriginal, historic and maritime archaeology until 1992. This agency also operated within the same division of the Ministry of Planning and Environment (VA 1024) as the Aboriginal Affairs Unit and their developmental work in the area of aboriginal archaeology was funded through the grants process administered by the Unit during this time. Particular emphasis was placed on involving and training Aborigines in the work of the Victoria Archaeological Survey.
Cultural Awareness officers within Aboriginal Co-operatives throughout the State were trained and funded, as was the Regional Site Officer scheme for training Aborigines in archaeological investigation and analysis, cultural resource management and community liaison.
Two committees were established in 1985 to advise whether Aboriginal skeletal remains should be preserved for scientific value or be reburied. They were the Aboriginal Affairs Committee which advised the Museum of Victoria Council on material in state collections and the Skeletal sub-committee of the Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee which advised the Secretary for Planning and Environment on the holding and disposition of skeletal remains. In 1988-89 16 skeletal remains were returned to local aboriginal communities and relevant interstate authorities.
When the Aboriginal Affairs Unit was moved to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs in 1990 responsibility for the Victoria Archaeological Survey had been transferred to the Minister for Conservation and Environment (VRG 94) along with other heritage protection functions, however by February 1992 responsibility for state archaeological functions were transferred to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Victoria Archaeological Survey was located within the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Responsibility for the aboriginal archaeological function remains with the Aboriginal Affairs Unit, as at September 1993, though administration of maritime and historic (post-European settlement) archaeology has been split from the aboriginal archaeological function and transferred to the responsibility of the Department of Planning and Development (VA 3094).
In March 1985 the small support unit assisting the Premier with the aboriginal affairs function was transferred to the Ministry of Planning and Environment (VA 1024) where it operated within the Heritage and Environment Branch.
Between 1990 and August 1991 the Office of Aboriginal Affairs was situated within the Ministry of Consumer Affairs (VA 1026) following the appointment of a separately commissioned Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (who was concurrently the Minister for Consumer Affairs). From April 1990 until February 1992 State archaeological functions, including aboriginal archaeology were administered within the Department of Conservation and Environment
In August 1991 a Department of Aboriginal Affairs (also known as Aboriginal Affairs Victoria) was established as the Department of State for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
After October 1992 the Department of Aboriginal Affairs was abolished and the Aboriginal Affairs Unit (known as Aboriginal Affairs, Victoria) was re-constituted within the Department of Health and Community Services (VA 3092 from 1992 to 1996 and VA 3970 Department of Human Services 1996 to 2002). In May 1993 maritime and historic (post-European settlement) archaeology was split from aboriginal archaeological functions and transferred to the responsibility of the Department of Planning and Development (VA 3094).
In 2002, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, (AAV), became a division of the Department of Victorian Communities (DVC). AAV is accountable to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for coordinating a range of policies and programs benefiting Victoria's Aboriginal communities. AAV comprises a Directorate and three Branches, Planning and Development, Heritage Services and Portfolio Services.