Four years ago today the United Nations acted on almost 30 years of advocacy by Indigenous Peoples around the world and adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says progress on its implementation has been slow.
Commissioner Gooda said the Declaration, which recognises the fundamental rights enjoyed by Indigenous peoples around the world, had been opposed by Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada when first adopted but was formally endorsed by Australia on 3 April 2009.
“Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were involved in campaigning for, and drafting, the Declaration which contains minimum standards for the survival, dignity and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“Although opposition to the Declaration is now confined to history, we need to remain determined in our efforts to make sure our communities, our governments and our legislators know how to use it in their everyday lives.
“We need to increase people’s understanding of what it means to ‘implement the Declaration’ and one of the best ways to do this is through education,” he said.
“We’ve had some great successes over the last couple of years that are consistent with the spirit of the Declaration, such as the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the current consultation towards recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.
“However I’d like to see a sustained commitment by the Australian Government to apply a holistic and coordinated approach to giving full effect to the Declaration,” he said.
“For example, I’d like to see an explicit acknowledgement in the National Human Rights Framework currently being developed by the government, that the framework will use the Declaration to guide its operation in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“We would like to see the Government engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to negotiate and develop an action plan to give full effect to the Declaration,” he said.
Mr Gooda said implementing the standards in the Declaration would foster strong relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the larger community and with the government.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed education materials on the Declaration which can be used to inform discussions about what full and proper implementation of the Declaration looks like.
Go to www.humanrights.gov.au/declaration_indigenous/index.html for the Commission’s education materials on the Declaration.
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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597