Metropolitan-wide Aboriginal Engagement

The Metropolitan Partnerships are committed to Treaty, Self Determination and Truth Telling. Each Metropolitan Partnership had an Aboriginal member; these members worked as a group and guided metropolitan-wide projects to benefit Aboriginal communities across Melbourne from 2017-2024.

Meet our members

A Yorta Yorta woman with more than 20 years' experience working directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, families and community organisations in Melbourne's Western region. She is the Director of the Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit at Victoria University, and serves as a  member of the Indigenous Advisory Group at FCA C and the Co-Chair of the Koling wad-ngal Aboriginal Corporation.

Karen has been deeply involved in a wide range of community engagement forums and is committed to the creation and maintenance of engaged and equal relationships between government and the Aboriginal communities of the West.

Michael is a proud Barkandji/ Wamba Wamba man who grew up in Jerilderie and moved to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in 2008.

Michael joined the Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place Board in June 2019 and has worked at Yarra Valley Water for the last 12 years. Michael has a background in engineering, planning and project management and has had a long career in the water industry.

Gheran Steel, a traditional owner of the Boonwurrung peoples, has 20 years of experience in operations and people management in the commercial sectors, as well in the not-for-profit sector, where he served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Boon Wurrung Foundation.

Gheran has established relationships with Glen Eira, Stonnington, and Bayside local councils, as well as many others with the purpose of creating a better understanding of indigenous heritage.

Deborah Mellett is a Gurindji woman with ties to the Jawoyn people in the Northern Territory. She has more than 25 years’ experience of providing specialist advice on the education, training and employment of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and Victoria. Deb has been a partner in a business, supported the establishment of Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and is currently responsible for improving the outcomes of Aboriginal families by focusing on the early years.

Deb is currently General Manager of Nairm Marr Djambana in Frankston. Deb is also an Ambassador for BreastScreen Australia and is active on numerous committees and networks, including the Local Aboriginal Network.

What we are working on

Since our establishment in 2017 we've invested in research and projects to further explore, and act upon, the priorities raised by the people of our region.

We commission this work with the Metropolitan Partnerships Development Fund and then share the findings and outcomes with government to inform policies and programs.

This metropolitan-wide project was undertaken to ascertain the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic upon Aboriginal Elders and the support required by Elders. It was led by the Aborigines Advancement League from August 2021 to July 2022. The project was guided by the Aboriginal representatives of the Metropolitan Partnerships and supported by the Office for Suburban Development. The research was led by Aboriginal Elder leaders, Aunty Di Kerr and Aunty Doreen Lovett, with the support of report author, Merle Hall.

Originally the project was to be conducted through Yarning Circles but given continuing restrictions, Aunty Di and Aunty Doreen primarily reached out to Elders across metro Melbourne through telephone calls. A survey was used to guide questions but these were long conversations. Elders needed to talk and share their stories. This was followed by some visits to Gathering Places and a metro-wide gathering in late March 2022. For many, this was their first in person contact with other Elders.

Elders reported very high levels of isolation and loneliness and that the lack of connection to family and other Elders was very difficult. The cultural impacts were high, many Elders spoke of being unable to connect to Country, gather and attend funerals. There were reports of fear and numerous impacts to health; both for underlying and not yet diagnosed health conditions. The full impact is yet to be seen. There were also financial impacts.

The report presents a series of recommendations for decision-makers in government and community, to consider for future events but also to support the recovery of Elders. The Aboriginal services and community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) played a critical role in support to Elders, this needs to be better understood and appropriately resourced.

See the Aboriginal Elders Cultural Wellbeing Project report here.  See the Victorian Connections article, ‘Keeping Conversation Flowing Among the Aboriginal Elders. ( )

View transcript here

This metropolitan-wide project was led by Moondani-Balluk, Victoria University and worked with the Aboriginal members of the Metropolitan Partnerships.

The need for the project came from issues and concerns identified by Aboriginal Partnership members and community.  They identified:

  • The lack of consistent metro-wide data
  • Unequal access to services across Aboriginal communities in metropolitan Melbourne
  • Continuing isolation of many Aboriginal individuals and communities in metropolitan Melbourne, some without voice and opportunities to participate in decision-making
  • The lack of continuity in successful programs and initiatives.

The project provided an evidence base on needs and aspirations that support and advance Aboriginal community-led projects, increase access to services and enables direct advice to the government.

The key objectives were to:

  • Increase social and economic inclusion and connect Aboriginal communities.
  • Design and develop an evidence-based report on programs, services and needs of Aboriginal communities across Melbourne.
  • Establish a set of priorities related to Aboriginal communities for the Metropolitan Partnerships.
  • Build the skills of the Aboriginal community to develop and implement an advocacy strategy and plan.
  • Scope and deliver at least two projects that may include expansion of the Elders project.

The project approach to delivery is described and developed by Aboriginal Partnership members’ connections and knowledge. It is embedded in Aboriginal self-determining principles through a community-led approach framed in relationality and reciprocity.

Read the Supporting and advancing Aboriginal communities in Metropolitan Melbourne report here.

The Indigenous Arts Trail project created an online map for an Indigenous Arts Trail in the Eastern region.

There are limited opportunities in the region for Aboriginal artists, so this project looked to boost business development opportunities. The regional visitor economy has been hard hit by the pandemic so there is an opportunity to boost visitation by creating a region-wide Arts Trail.

Delivery of this project was led by Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place.

Page last updated: 02/07/24