Victoria's First Peoples' Assembly has been elected in an historic moment for the state and for Indigenous peoples across the country.
Elected to represent the south-west is Michael 'Mookeye' Bell, a Gunditjmara man and former chief executive of Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation.
He is one of 21 provisionally-elected members following weeks of voting open to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Victorians over 16.
The 55-year-old of Heywood said he was deeply moved when he found out he was elected.
"It's quite humbling to be voted in, I'm pretty honoured to be voted for by the people for the south-west area and I look forward to representing them and putting their voice forward for The Assembly," he told The Standard.
"This is groundbreaking, it's something that's never happened in Victoria before in the sense of negotiating a treaty framework.
This is groundbreaking, it's something that's never happened in Victoria before.Michael 'Mookeye' Bell
"What a great opportunity to be part of the process in creating a framework."
When it comes to working in the community and in Indigenous affairs, Mr Bell has a wealth of knowledge and experience.
He held the position as founding CEO of Winda Mara for a decade before stepping down last month. He was on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), was chair of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and executive officer for the Barwon South West Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee (RAJAC) - just to name a few accomplishments.
He put his hand up to be a candidate because he believed he had something to offer the south-west.
"Now that we're elected it's our job to talk to our community areas and talk to the electorate that we've been voted in. I will be negotiating from the south-west's perspective," he said.
"I have to make sure I listen to what the community have a desire for, what they see the framework looking like and go in with a bit of an open mind and think, how do we bring people together to converse about the framework to negotiate treaty.
"I've done a lot of work in the community and in Indigenous affairs for a long time across the voting area. I've been part of the old ATSIC, regional committees, social services and am part of a local community with a World Heritage inscription.
"These things don't happen overnight. I think I've got plenty of experience."
The First Peoples' Assembly will have its first meeting in Victorian Parliament on December 10 where it will elect the two chairs for the assembly.
After that the plan is to host six state forums and work on hosting local regional consultations.
"The exciting thing is it's brand new, it impacts on a lot of Aboriginal people," he said.
"Of the main things will be self-determination, empowering our mob to grow and maintain their strong cultural identities.
"I want to acknowledge all the ones who ran for The Assembly,they were brave in putting their hand up to run. We had quite a few candidates from over here and in Portland, Heywood and Hamilton, it was great to see so many candidates in our electorate, our part of the world, they are all part of the future of this region."
Treaty Advancement Commissioner and Gunditjmara woman Jill Gallagher said the elections mark a "transformative moment in the treaty process".
"These people will make vital decisions about the framework for negotiations, which will influence treaty negotiations in the future," she said.
"It's a mix of our young and our old people. Some are leaders now, and others will be leaders in a generation to come."
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