“As custodians of the oldest living Culture on earth, our People have an ancient lineal connection to Country, to Culture and to each other. As Traditional Owners we have both inherited and we create Cultural Heritage. We create artefacts and materials, live traditions and spirituality, and imbed it all within the landscape. That is our Culture. That is why all Country is sacred."
As representative and inclusive Traditional Owner corporations, Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) have the authority to speak on behalf of all Traditional Owners of their Country. Through the process of registration by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, their knowledge, lore, cultural responsibilities, and authority has been proven. Their registration as a RAP confirms their inherited and fundamental role to speak for Country and Culture within their registration area.
With some responsibilities as statutory functions under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, you are required by law to consult with them. In other instances, you should consult with RAPs as a representative corporation, inclusive of all Traditional Owners of an identified Country. It is appropriate that you work with them as they have gone through a process of rigorous review, in which their relationship to Country, the inclusivity of their membership and relationship to Apical Ancestors have been considered. In these instances of respectful consultation, the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council is seeking to have these responsibilities of a RAP also legislated.
Whilst RAPs have inclusive and representative membership structures, all individuals can choose to become, or not become, members. As cultural responsibility is a collective right, an individuals’ family group, Cultural responsibilities and Country are still protected and represented by the RAP, regardless of their membership.
Continued engagement with non-representative groups undermines the capacity for self-determination of formally recognised and inclusive Traditional Owner organisations. The Council supports these recognised organisations to speak collectively for their community and Country.
"We must work together, talk together, discuss Culture together to find a collective way forward. Not recognising due process clouds the importance of the acknowledgement of recognised Traditional Owners and what they undertook to participate in these processes. The challenge for us all is to understand that the right thing has happened and that, through the process, the voice of First Peoples’ has been recognised.”
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Reviewed 04 June 2021