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Acknowledging world’s indigenous people: Aug 9

In the following backgrounder, the Institute’s Specific Issues Committee, Indigenous Concerns acknowledges the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People (August 9) and invites readers to reflect on the rich cultures of indigenous people and the challenges faced by them.

Photo source: UN

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is acknowledged on August 9. It is a time to acknowledge the richness of indigenous cultures and the special contributions they make to the human family.

It is also a time to recall the tremendous challenges which so many indigenous peoples face, ranging from unacceptable levels of poverty and disease to dispossession, discrimination and denial of basic human rights.


Readers are invited to reflect on the following statements and take time to be aware of their individual response.

Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous peoples are the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to other people and to the environment. Indigenous peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, the various groups of indigenous peoples around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.

Indigenous peoples around the world have sought recognition of their identities, their ways of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources; yet throughout history, their rights have been violated. Indigenous peoples are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world today. The international community now recognises that special measures are required to protect the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples.

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issuesvisit the website.

Indigenous Women
Despite their enormous assets and contribution to society, indigenous women still suffer from multiple discrimination, both as women and as indigenous individuals. They are subjected to extreme poverty, trafficking, illiteracy, lack of access to ancestral lands, non-existent or poor health care and to violence in the private and the public sphere. This violence is exacerbated when indigenous communities find themselves in the midst of conflict and women become the target of violence with political motives, when going about their daily work, fetching wood or water for the family.

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Indigenous Womenvisit the site.

Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples
Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, due to their dependence upon, and close relationship, with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by indigenous communities including political and economic marginalisation, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment.

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Climate Change and Indigenous Peoplesvisit the site.

From Little Things Big Things Grow, Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly – watch and listen at YouTube. It’s about the proud Gurindji people and their stand against the might of the cattle baron. It is a story that ended in 1975 when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam poured soil into the hands of Gurindji elder and activist Vincent Lingiari. It was an act that symbolised the return of the land to traditional owners. (ANTaR, the Origins – visit the site.)

The Redfern Statement
Together we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. Watch and listen on YouTube to former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s Redfern Statement (1992).

The following reflection, courtesy of the Edmund Rice Centre, draws on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 apology, as well as Prime Minister Paul Keating’s 1992 speech at Redfern to launch the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. Download the reflection as a PDF here.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians,
    Indigenous and non-Indigenous,
    to close the gap that lies between us
    in life expectancy,
    educational achievement
    and economic opportunity.

A future, where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect,
    mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians,
    whatever their origins,
    are truly equal partners,
    with equal opportunities
    and with an equal stake
    in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

(From Prime Minister Rudd’s 2008 Apology to the Stolen Generations)

Professor Mick Dodson AM, Mercy Justice Conference
Professor Mick Dodson AM will be a speaker at the Mercy Justice Conference to be held in Queanbeyan November 6-8. Mick is a member of the Yawuru peoples the traditional Aboriginal owners of land and waters in the Broome area of the southern Kimberley region of Western Australia. He is currently Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University and is a Professor of law at the ANU College of Law. In 2009 Mick Dodson was named Australian of the Year by the National Australia Day Council.

Mick Dodson is a vigorous advocate of the rights and interests of the Indigenous Peoples of the world. He was the Co-Deputy Chair of the Technical Committee for the 1993 International Year of the World’s Indigenous People. In 2005 Mick was appointed as a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; he continues as a member until December 2010.


From: Institute Specific Issues Committee, Indigenous Concerns (Sisters Rose Glennen, Anne McGuire and Daphne McKeough). The Committee warmly invites your response to the article or the issue.

Contact: Carmel Heagerty RSM, Institute Justice Co-ordinator