An all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander panel discussion about important justice issues. In the lead up to Invasion Day 2022, VALS is hosted a panel discussion about Aboriginal Self-Determination, systemic racism, ending Aboriginal deaths in custody, and protest rights.

Panel Moderator: Nerita Waight, CEO of VALS Nerita is a proud Yorta Yorta woman and will moderate the panel discussion. Nerita is the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. Nerita began working at VALS in 2014 as a civil lawyer and went on to work in our family and youth team. Nerita established Balit Ngulu, a specialist legal service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Nerita has a Bachelor of Arts and Law from University of Melbourne and is currently completing her Master of Law, also at the University of Melbourne. Nerita has a passion for social justice and equity, which she brings to her work at VALS.

Panellist: Tarneen Onus Williams, Community Legal Education Officer at VALS Tarneen is a proud Gunditjmara, Bindal, Yorta Yorta and Torres Strait Islander person living on Wurundjeri country. Tarneen is a community legal education officer at VALS and has worked in multiple roles at VALS. Tarneen is community organiser has worked on the campaigns that include Invasion Day, Blak Deaths in Custody and Stop the Forced Closures of Aboriginal Communities. They’re a writer who’s been published in IndigenousX, The Saturday Paper and NITV.

Panellist: Marcus Stewart, Co-Chair at First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria Marcus is the elected Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria. He sits on the Assembly as the Taungurung Land and Waters Council’s representative. Marcus has worked in the Aboriginal community for over 20 years. Through his experience he believes that systems and structures must change to better empower Aboriginal people. Marcus studied Developmental Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne and undertook postgraduate studies in Family Therapy, going on to work as a child and family therapist. Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Marcus was the CEO of the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations. Renowned for his leadership skills, Marcus is proud to continue the journey towards Treaty in Victoria.

Panellist: Meriki Onus, Co-Director at Foundation for Young Australians Meriki Onus is a Gunai and Gunditjmara woman who lives on Wurundjeri country. Founder of Yarnda Consulting, writer, and Atlantic Fellow 2021. She is currently a co-director at Foundation for Young Australians. Meriki brings strong experience in the areas of campaigning, community organising, research, and facilitation. Before establishing Yarnda Consulting, Meriki worked in the legal sector for Aboriginal women’s rights for over 10 years and is the Co-Founder of Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance. Meriki is also a Co-Founder of Pay The Rent, a national initiative to distribute wealth on stolen land. Meriki just completed her master’s by course work where she focuses on the history of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Fitzroy at the University of Melbourne.

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Resources mentioned on the webinar:

If this discussion raises any issues or concerns for you, we encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to call Yarning Safe’N’Strong – a helpline run by the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service – on 1800 959 563. And everyone can call lifeline on 13 11 14.