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Education focus for world's Indigenous peoples

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Two Indigenous children happy together

Every year, 9 August is commemorated as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year, the International Day’s theme is Indigenous Peoples’ Right to Education.

“Indigenous peoples continue to face challenges in accessing education that fully recognises the diversity of Indigenous languages and cultures,” said Australian Human Rights Commission President, Gillian Triggs.

“While there have been improvements in some areas, the participation levels of Indigenous Australians in higher education still remain below those for non-Indigenous Australians.

“The participation of Indigenous 15-19 year-olds in higher education stood at 60 per cent in 2013, well below the 80 per cent participation for all Australians in the same age group.

“Indigenous students can be stigmatised because of their Indigenous identity and can experience low self-esteem as a result.

“Other barriers to education include discriminatory and racist attitudes in the school environment; language barriers between Indigenous learners and teachers; and inadequate resources for teachers.”

Professor Triggs said the right of Indigenous peoples to education is protected by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Article 14 of the UN Declaration states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”

Professor Triggs said the right of Indigenous peoples to education is also protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“In spite of these protections, the right to education has not been fully realised for most Indigenous peoples, and a critical education gap exists between Indigenous peoples and the general population.”

In a statement, the UN Secretary-General called on governments everywhere to improve access to education for Indigenous people.

“On this International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples ... let us commit to ensuring Indigenous peoples are not left behind,” said Mr. Ban Ki-moon.