Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities


We are active supporters of self-determination. Our Statement on self-determination and improved outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians outlines our commitment to advancing self-determination in line with the Victorian Aboriginal Affairs framework.

Read our statement on self-determination

Aboriginal engagement plan

Our Aboriginal engagement plan, to be launched soon, will embed the principles of self-determination including ongoing consultation and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Victoria, leading to the transferring of power, resources and decision-making to Victorian Aboriginal communities.

Our vision for self-determination is a truly inclusive electoral system in Victoria that includes the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure they are involved in decision-making processes.

To achieve this, our Aboriginal engagement plan will have a set of measurable outcomes to:

  • build strong and respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • use Aboriginal expertise to develop culturally responsive electoral services in partnership with communities
  • celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures and histories
  • support our Aboriginal employees by ensuring we provide a culturally safe work environment and encourage increased representation at all levels of our organisation
  • encourage greater electoral participation to ensure Aboriginal involvement in decision-making processes
  • embed more Aboriginal knowledge and decision-making within the VEC
  • contribute to the broader social, cultural and economic development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria
  • ensure we are accountable to the Victorian Aboriginal community.

My vote your vote our vote

A collection of inspiring stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders about how they fought to have a voice and vote.




LISA MAZA: My vote.






LISA MAZA: Your vote.

LOU BENNETT: Your vote.



ALL TOGETHER: Your vote.


LISA MAZA: Our vote.

LOU BENNETT: Our vote.




NARRATOR: Over 100 years ago, the struggle began. With a new Commonwealth constitution in place,

the Commonwealth Franchise Act banned any Aboriginal native of Australia, Asia, Africa, or the islands of the Pacific, except New Zealand, from voting, if they were not already on the roll.

It was up to an electoral official to decide who was an Aboriginal native.

Back then, for our mob, turning 21 meant you were old enough to fight for country, but denied a voice in how the country was run.

Over 60 years of staunch campaigning followed. The road was long, but the struggle was won.

It began in 1936, when Aboriginal activist William Cooper set up the Australian Aborigines League.

Times were changing, people were talking, change was imminent, but it took another 13 years.

In 1962, the right to vote was extended from those serving in the Defence Force and those already on the state rolls to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 18, regardless of gender.

Against the odds, in 1971, we saw Neville Bonner appointed to the Senate, the first Aboriginal Australian in any Australian Parliament.

Three years later, he was formally elected by the people to retain his seat.

That same year, in 1974, Aboriginal candidates were elected in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

And two years later, Sir Doug Nichols was appointed the Governor of South Australia. Compulsory enrolment and effectively compulsory voting was passed in 1984.

JIRRA LULIA HARVEY: I first voted as soon as I turned 18. I was actually really excited to vote.

ANDREW JACKOMOS: Some time after 1970.

LISA MAZA: I first voted when I was 18 years old.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: I was a late bloomer in voting.

LOU BENNETT: I voted when I was 18.

IAN HAMM: March 1983.

LUKE MURRAY: I get a lot of inspiration from people like my great grandfather, Sir Doug Nichols, William Cooper, all those sort of people that fought hard for that basic civil right to just go and have a say.

LOU BENNETT: So, you know, all people are like Uncle Sir Doug Nichols, my Uncle William Cooper, Uncle Bill Onus, Auntie Marge Tucker.

TROY AUSTIN: People like Charles Perkins definitely inspired my vote, given the fact that he fought so hard for indigenous rights in our community, and took to the streets, and the freedom riots, those type of things.

LISA MAZA: All the black fellas that have fought for us to get to vote have inspired me to vote. That's why I take an interest now, because I know how hard people fought to get that vote.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: I remember seeing Bonner, Neville Bonner and Charlie Perkins. They're being counted. They're standing up as Aboriginals and being counted in this country. And so they were an inspiration.

LISA MAZA: You cannot sit back and do nothing. You must do that if you want to honour our elders.

PAUL PATON: All the enjoyment that we have in this country, our freedom, all comes from our votes.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: You've got to play the game. If you want to get something out of the government,

you've got to have a voice. And so you've got to vote. That's the only way you're going to do it.

DANIELLE SPEAK: Everyone needs a right to their own opinion. And our elders have fought a long time to get our opinion out. So it's important that we appreciate that.

BELINDA DUARTE: Voting provides you with a voice to empower somebody else to govern what you value.

LISA MAZA: People will be running the world, and we will sit back and say, who cares? They don't represent us. And it's like, guess what? If you don't vote, that's why they're not representing you. Because you have to vote if you want the representation.

KZANE ATKINSON: The more Aboriginals vote, the louder our voices are together.

JIRRA LULIA HARVEY: I think that our community have a really unique voice within Australian society, within the Victorian community. I think it's incredibly important that we use our voice as loud and as proudly as we can. And voting is one way that we can do that.

LOU BENNETT: I want an Australia that will celebrate diversity, and look after the common man, and look after the common woman.

JIRRA LULIA HARVEY: Women had to struggle to get the vote. And then Aboriginal women had to struggle to get to vote. And now, I feel like it's a privilege to have it.

TAHLIA BIGGS: I'm going to vote. And I'm going to let my voice be heard. And I'm going to vote for who I think should be in Parliament.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: If our community vote, we'd have a strong voice. It will be a stronger community.

JIRRA LULIA HARVEY: I think we can make the Koorie vote stronger by getting our young ones to enrol. Across the world it's always young people that are sometimes a little bit slow to enrol. And young people's voices are so important in making change within our society. And so I just hope that all young Koories enrol to vote this year.

DYLAN BURNS: You want the best leader for our country, and our, actually, culture, as well.

IAN HAMM: It's one thing to say, we argue with the government, but it's another thing to participate in who actually forms that government.

LILLIAN ARNOLD-RENDELL: It's about a sense of community, in a way, because you get to express your opinions

and be allowed to have your view and vote.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: And the only people that will vote Aboriginal people into these positions of the utmost responsibility is ourselves, black fellas. We need black people to vote.

ELISSA WALKER: We need someone to look up to and someone to vote for, and hear our opinions of what we don't like around the community.

LOU BENNETT: If you're not going to speak up, you're not going to be heard. If you keep the mouth closed, you're not going to get fed. You've got to speak out if you want change,

ANDREW JACKOMOS: Do it. Take the plunge. Become involved.

KYLE VANDER KUYP: Empower yourself, ask questions, and then go and take the step forward and vote.

DAPHNE YARRAM: It's really important that we have a voice, and for Australia to recognise that our voice as Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander people. And the best way to do it is to show it by voting.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: I would like, dearly, an opportunity to be speaking to somebody that's got Aboriginal blood, sitting in that particular office, looking after Aboriginal affairs here in Victoria. It needs to be an Aboriginal person.

TROY AUSTIN: I can say now: Seeing our own people our own faces in parliament, I think, would be fantastic, as well.

JIRRA LULIA HARVEY: I think we need a number of Koories in politics, so that we can make choices, we can make our voices, our multiple voices heard.

DANIELLE SPEAK: Well, I'm going to be voting soon, so I'll be looking for indigenous people to vote for, because I can relate to them and it's more inspiring to me.

GREG KENNEDY: Anyone who is thinking about standing, make sure that you do. It's your right. We need you to stand up. What we need is Aboriginal people. We need a collective voice. We need you to add to that collective voice and makes us a stronger voice, as a whole. And we need the right people representing us.

ELISSA WALKER: Step up and be a role model for the rest of us kids, because like they say, the future's in your hands.

UNCLE JACK CHARLES: I think it's the responsibility of every young person to think seriously about taking on the role of say, a Minister, a councillor in government, and that.

IAN HAMM: If you can participate in reshaping the type of world we live in, that's an enormous contribution to all humanity. And I would encourage people to seriously consider it.

NARRATOR: Progress has been slow. Victorians still haven't had an elected indigenous member of Parliament.

What are we waiting for? Are we going to let our ancestors struggle be a wasted effort? Are we going to dishonour their efforts? This is the time, and this is the place.




ALL TOGETHER: Your vote.




Korin Gamadji Institute REAL program

We are a strong supporter of emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders through our sponsorship of the Korin Gamadji Institute's Richmond Emerging Aboriginal Leaders (REAL) program.

Korin Gamadji means ‘grow and emerge’ in the Woi Wurrung language and the REAL program focuses on just that.

The program engages young people and works with them over a number of years to develop their leadership skills.

Through the progressive steps of the program, we deliver sessions to young leaders and teach them  about government, democracy, how to make positive change in their communities, and how to enrol and vote.