Topic: Negotiations between governments and indigenous peoples: how governments should engage with indigenous communities.
Mr Pearce shared the experiences of Indigenous people in Western Australia to highlight the continuing disadvantage and ultimately prompt participants to think about how far we still have to go before Indigenous Australians can fully exercise their human rights. Examples of the inequality experienced include the high rates of imprisonment in the adult and juvenile justice systems, low levels of literacy, high population growth, high suicide rates, and high unemployment rates.
Mr Pearce provided the history of government's engagement with Indigenous peoples by noting the work of those before us who initiated the rights discussion in Australia, the recognition of Indigenous Australian's citizenship rights by government and the small gains in recent times as a result.
But overall there is a disconnection between Indigenous people, especially young Indigenous people, and the mainstream community. This disconnection is driven, in part, by the responsibility placed on Indigenous people and the focus of concepts such as 'mutual obligation' on what we have to do it exchange for services.
Of particular concern with mutual obligation is the entry of mining companies into agreement-making which enables the transfer of responsibilities between government and the private sector. These agreements seem to cover citizenship entitlements in exchange for destroying cultural landscape and traditional lands. Human rights are not just housing and education; it covers all rights, including the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples. The focus only on citizenship rights is unacceptable.
To conclude, Mr Pearce asked that Indigenous people who directly engage with government and civil society to be careful not to negotiate away their inherent rights as Indigenous peoples for the sake of citizenship rights or in its simplest terms exchanging "rights" for a job.
Last updated 24 January 2006.