Since the late 1990s many committed and passionate Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Victorians have been part of Reconciliation Victoria’s journey and have contributed to the development of a strong grassroots reconciliation movement in this state. During National Reconciliation Week 2001, then Premier Steve Bracks pledged funding for a state association, now known as Reconciliation Victoria. Marjorie Thorpe and Michael Gorton were appointed as Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Co-Chairs of the interim body.

In July 2002, the first Reconciliation Victoria Council was elected, continuing and embedding a unique bicultural governance structure of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members. Eleanor Bourke and Diane Sisely were elected as Co-Chairs. A number of extraordinary Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women and men have dedicated their passion, commitment, wisdom and countless volunteer hours as Council members of Reconciliation Victoria in the years since. 

Reconciliation Victoria initially set up office within the Victorian Council of Social Services then moved into Ross House, and began forming strong partnerships with local governments, schools, Aboriginal organisations and community groups, relationships which we continue to build on to this day. Reconciliation Victoria also continues to coordinate and support National Reconciliation Week activities and the network of Local Reconciliation Groups, along with ANTaR Victoria, activities we have undertaken since our inception.

In 2008 Reconciliation Victoria established a Treaty and Agreements WorkingGroup with ANTaR Victoria to explore options and advocate for Treaty. It has been very encouraging to see the Victorian Government commence a Treaty process with the Aboriginal community in 2017. In 2009 the State Government announced it would no longer provide core funding for Reconciliation Victoria and the office in Ross House closed on 30 June that year. With vocal community support and support from ANTaR Victoria the Council resolved to continue meeting and advocating for the reestablishment of funding. 

In 2010 Reconciliation Victoria secured project funding to work with the local government sector, employing a part-time project worker based in office of partner organisation the Victorian Local Governance Association. Organisational funding was reinstated the following year after a change in state government, and Reconciliation Victoria was re-established in 2011 based at Hub Melbourne, a co-work space in the city, moving to another co-work space in Collingwood in 2015 where the organisation is today.

Reconciliation Victoria has continued to have a focus on reconciliation through the local government sector conducting a statewide survey in 2012, launching the Maggolee website in 2014 and establishing the HART Awards in partnership with the VLGA. 

Reconciliation Victoria’s approach has been informed by a historical context that is particular to Victoria, one in which Aboriginal people suffered some of the most severe impacts of colonisation. The Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (now numbering nearly 47,788 people based on 2016 ABS Census data) was dramatically impacted by the introduction of disease, massacres, rapid settlement, farming practices and policies that allowed the forcible relocation of whole communities and the removal of children by authorities.

The intergenerational trauma resulting from the Stolen Generations continues today. This dispossession means many Aboriginal people do not live on their traditional lands, however this does not diminish their connection to Country and their spiritual, social, cultural and economic relationship with their traditional lands and waters, as recognised in the Victorian Constitution and Human Rights Charter. 

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