Recommendation Thirteen: Empowering Council to employ its own Staff

Realising self-determined ownership of our Culture, Heritage, History and Country 2021

"If they [Council] are appointed by the Minister and have government staff who are giving advice to them as well as to FPSR and the Minister; then they’ve all got to be singing from the same hymn sheet don’t they? They’re lapdogs aren’t they?"


The self-determination and autonomy of Council is significantly compromised whilst it is unable to control its own staff and their work.


Currently, the OVAHC is a section of FPSR. Therefore, all its staff members are employed through DPC. It has been a long held perception in the community that Council is a government entity, as Council’s budgeted work is approved by FPSR, it has no control over the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Fund or the Register, and Council members are appointed by the Minister.


That the Act be amended to allow Council to employ its own staff. This would be in keeping with principles of self-determination and would provide greater autonomy to Council as an independent statutory authority.


Strategic justification or operational benefits for this proposal

With the primary purpose of this recommendation being to increase the autonomy of Council, enabling Council to employ its own staff would be an important part of allowing such autonomy. In order to maintain its ability to undertake its functions it is important that Council, as an independent statutory authority, is given powers that allow decisions that impact its operation to be made by it. The strategic justification and operational benefits of this extend to the ongoing process of enabling and furthering principles of self-determination – in line with the Victorian government’s commitment, and the Act’s purpose of empowering Traditional Owners to meet their social, cultural and economic needs.

Employment based on skill and expertise

Council, as an established statutory body responsible for managing and overseeing multiple functions, would have the ability to adopt a recruitment process that is fair and based on appropriate levels of skill and expertise.

Submission response to the recommendation

The Act should be amended to allow Council to employ its own staff. This would be in keeping with principles of self-determination and would provide greater autonomy to Council as an independent statutory authority.

City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne is the capital city of Victoria, and Australia’s second-largest city. The municipality of Melbourne includes metropolitan Melbourne’s innermost suburbs, including the central city. Our municipality is around 37 km2 and shares its borders with seven other councils. The municipality of Melbourne is the gateway to Victoria, the seat of the Victorian Government and the headquarters of many local, national and international companies, peak bodies, and government and non-government agencies.

Community support for the recommendation

Most submissions were in support of empowering Council to employ its own staff – with the majority holding the view that this is in line with principles of self-determination.

Criticism of this recommendation mainly came from Building and Development, and Heritage – Business sectors. These submissions reinforced the sector’s underlying reluctance to support the principle of self-determination and questioning of the capacity of Traditional Owners to manage their own Cultural Heritage.

"The current arrangements for employment through the Department of Premier and Cabinet are considered appropriate in the absence of any further strategic justification or operational benefits for this proposal."

"It is to be recalled the Council is a statutory body exercising statutory duties and responsibilities under the Act… It is an imperative decision-makers are employed based on the right skill set leading to robust and considered decision making."

UNDRIP and Best Practice Standards


This issue should be considered in relation to Article 35:

"Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the responsibilities of individuals to their communities."

Best practice standards in Indigenous cultural heritage management and legislation

This recommendation should be considered in relation to Best Practice Standard 7 – Resourcing; participation:

"There must be acceptance that the Indigenous representative organisation engaging with proponents and assessing their proposals are performing a statutory function under the relevant jurisdiction’s project assessment and approval regime and must be adequately resourced to perform this function."