Date: 
Thursday 1 April 2010

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, has called on all Australians to get  behind the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and use it to improve programs, policy and legislative development in Australia.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s first anniversary of Australia’s formal support of the Declaration on 3 April last year, Commissioner Gooda said the Declaration was a practical tool for building mutual respect and forging genuine partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and state, territory and federal governments.

“The Declaration is more than just a piece of paper,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“The Declaration provides us with clear signposts to guide the protection of Indigenous peoples’ rights to land, culture, and the rights of Indigenous peoples to have a say in things that impact on our lives,” he said. 

“The Declaration sets the standards we must all aspire to in order to ensure the survival, dignity and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Last year’s formal support of the Declaration by the Australian Government was an essential first step, but the challenge remains for all Australians to embrace these standards.”

Commissioner Gooda said since the Declaration had been formally endorsed by Australia, it had been referred to in Parliamentary debates and in Senate Committee reports.

He said Indigenous organisations such as the Goldfields Land and Sea Council and the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) have demonstrated how the Declaration could be used to place the rights of Indigenous peoples ‘front and centre’ in developing policies framed on the Declaration.

“We must focus on educating government officials at all levels, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves, and the general public,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“The Australian Human Rights Commission is eager to work with Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop a national implementation plan for the Declaration.

“I would encourage all those working in policy or decision-making roles in the government or non-government sectors to use the language in the Declaration when dealing with Indigenous peoples’ rights. Talking through the language of human rights is one way that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can have a public voice and influence the development of laws and policy in Australia.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission, with the support of the Christensen Fund and Oxfam Australia, will release a range of education materials on the Declaration later in the year.

For information about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples go to: www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/declaration/index.html

Media contact: Louise McDermott 0419 258 597