Consulting with Aboriginal Communities

Why is this important?

Meaningful consultation with the Aboriginal community is essential to the process of developing trust and enabling the community to influence the work of council, ensuring it reflects the needs and priorities of the local Aboriginal community.

Councils have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of their communities, as well as to deliver a range of essential services. 

Since the Local Government Act 1989 (Vic) was passed 30 years ago, the role of local councils has grown beyond delivering essential services for local communities, to having responsibility for “advocating the interests of the local community to other communities and governments”.

In addition, it is well-recognised that Traditional Owners have distinct cultural rights and responsibilities to care for their Country and they must be central in decision-making about the management and protection of their cultural heritage.

According to the following Statewide Principles, developed as part of the 2013 Local Government Aboriginal Partnership Project:

  • Local government recognises the unique and significant contribution made by Aboriginal people and organisations to the local community and to Australia’s identity.
  • Local government acknowledges the need to strengthen the voice of Aboriginal people in local decision making and the fundamental right of Traditional Owners and other Aboriginal community members including young people to engage about the matters that are important to their communities.


Engagement policies and protocols should respect the role of different Aboriginal community groups, and outline the basis of this relationship. They may outline consultative processes, or establish mechanisms for engagement such as an advisory committee to council.

Engagement policies and protocols should be developed in consultation with the relevant Aboriginal community groups and where possible seek the guidance and advice of Local Aboriginal Network (LAN) Community Development Brokers.

There are 39 LANs across Victoria, supported by 12 Aboriginal Community Development Brokers. 


What can your council do?

Councils can:

  • Invite Aboriginal organisations to participate in council forums and other committees and in consultation about the development of council’s plans, policies and strategies;
  • Encourage Aboriginal community participation in consultation about the development of council plans, policies and strategies;
  • Establish a permanent Aboriginal Advisory Group, made up of organisations and individuals from the local community.
  • Contact the LAN Community Development Broker for your area to find out more about how your LAN can support your Aboriginal community engagement.
  • Develop an Aboriginal community engagement and partnership framework.



The 2012 Victorian Local Government Aboriginal Engagement and Reconciliation Survey found that some councils had specific engagement policies or protocols. Others reported they had developed action or inclusion plans.

Last Updated: April 9, 2021 at 3:06 pm

Useful resources

Aboriginal Cultural Rights, What you need to know – Fact sheet for public authorities, Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission

Opening Doors through Partnerships (SNAICC) – Practical approaches to developing genuine partnerships that address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community needs

Closing the Gap  Engagement with Indigenous Communities in key sectors

Communicating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences

Case Studies – January 26

After extensive consultation with their Aboriginal communities Yarra, Moreland and Darebin Councils voted in 2017 to cease Australia Day celebrations.

Yarra Mayor, Cr Amanda Stone said the changes have been informed by in-depth conversations with the local Aboriginal community, as well as feedback from the broader Yarra community.

“The overwhelming sentiment from our Aboriginal community is that January 26 is a date of sadness, trauma and distress. They have told us that this is not a day of celebration, but a day of mourning,” said Cr Stone.

“In recognition of our Aboriginal community’s experiences, we will hold a small, culturally-sensitive event acknowledging the loss of culture, language and identity felt by the community on January 26.

“We will also be undertaking community education to help people better understand the Aboriginal community’s experiences of this date,” she said.

“In the last 12 months, there has been a groundswell of community support for change from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across the country. The community is looking for leadership on this issue.  Read more about the consultation process undertaken by Yarra Council.


The City of Darebin has a longstanding relationship with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. When the decision was announced the Council stated that “the way we mark 26 January has been a topic of discussion with the community for many years”.

Consultation included a roundtable discussion with the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee and engagement with community leaders through an online survey. The community engagement process also utilised Council’s extensive and diverse network of Council’s 27 advisory committees. Council also consulted with the Wurundjeri Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Aboriginal Corporation.  Read more


Moreland Council’s decision was based on consultation with the Moreland Reconciliation Advisory Committee, consultation with other local councils, their respective Aboriginal advisory committee members and other community organisations.  Read more


Mount Alexander Shire Council, after consultation with the local Dja Dja Wurrung community, in 2018 introduced a Survival Day component to their annual Australia Day ceremony. The aim was to highlight and encourage open discussions about the impact of Australia Day on the Indigenous community.

Consultation was undertaken to explore the ways in which council could enhance and increase the number of meaningful Indigenous elements incorporated into the ceremony, and how to address the divisive issue of how Australia Day celebrations impact on Aboriginal people.  Read more

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