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Federal govt supports UN Indigenous declaration

The Institute’s Specific Issues Committee, Indigenous Concerns, draws your attention to a recent decision by the Australian Government concerning Indigenous people. What do you know about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

On April 3, the Australian Government finally gave its support to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In the statement declaring Australian Government’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Hon. Jenny Macklin MP stated:

"On 17 September 2007, 143 nations voted in support of the Declaration. Australia was one of four countries that voted against the Declaration.
Today, Australia changes its position.
Today, Australia gives our support to the Declaration.
We do this in the spirit of re-setting the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and building trust…
The Declaration recognises the legitimate entitlement of Indigenous people to all human rights – based on principles of equality, partnership, good faith and mutual benefit."

(Source: Hon. Jenny Macklin April 3, 2009)

Included in his response to the Australian Government’s decision, Mr Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner stated:

“In making this formal statement of support, the federal government is committing to a framework which fully respects Indigenous peoples’ rights and creates the opportunity for all Australians to be truly equal.

“The challenge for government now, is to build understanding of the Declaration among government officials, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the general community, so we can give meaning and content to its provisions.” (Source: Australian Human Rights Commission)

The Australian Human Rights Commission has prepared some “Questions and Answers” regarding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including:

  • What is the value of the Declaration to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?
  • Does the Declaration elevate customary law over Australian law or individual rights?
  • Will the Declaration have an impact on public policy and confer rights upon one sector of the Australian community to the exclusion of all others?

Readers are encouraged to reflect on the response from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mr Tom Calma, Australian Human Rights Commission.

In our previous article regarding Indigenous Concerns, readers were invited to reflect on the Northern Territory Intervention using the Young Christian Students-Workers framework: “See, Judge, Act”. In this edition readers are encouraged to use the “See, Judge, Act” framework to reflect on the government’s decision, especially these words:

"The Declaration recognises the legitimate entitlement of Indigenous people to all human rights – based on principles of equality, partnership, good faith and mutual benefit."

Readers are also challenged to reflect on their own response to Indigenous people, Close the Gap campaigns and areas of injustice to Indigenous people.

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.
Email: indigenous.concerns@mercy.org.au

Contact: Carmel Heagerty RSM, Institute Justice Co-ordinator
Email: Institute.Justice@mercy.org.au