Thursday 13 September 2012

The Australian Government has taken some significant steps towards implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples since formally supporting it but much more remained to be done, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said today on the fifth anniversary of the UN adoption of the Declaration.

He said the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, establishing the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the National Healing Foundation all go some way to redressing the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples but the government still had to give full effect to the Declaration.

“The Declaration provides a solid, universal and practical guide for governments to ensure they are doing their utmost to protect and respect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and yet we still see too many lost opportunities,” Commissioner Gooda said.

This is simply not good enough. The current level of engagement and commitment Australia has at the national level on the implementation of the Declaration needs to be drastically improved.

“While I welcome the financial investment of governments in the Stronger Futures legislation and in efforts to close the gap, the reality is that money alone will not address disadvantage but working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will increase our chances of success,” he said.

He said the Australian Human Rights Commission had commenced discussions with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the Indigenous Peoples Organisations Network of Australia, and the Australian Government about progressing a National Strategy on the Implementation of the United Declaration.

“Self-determination, free, prior and informed consent, good faith, the right to participate in decisions that affect us, the promotion and protection of culture, and equality and non-discrimination are all central to giving full effect to the Declaration,” Mr Gooda said.

“It’s timely also that the report released this week by Desert Knowledge Australia  stressed the importance of constructive relationships built on two sided accountability – a fact enshrined in the Declaration’s preamble which says that recognising the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Declaration ‘will enhance the harmonious and cooperative relations between the State and indigenous peoples’.

He said the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in 2014 should provide the impetus for Australia to improve its commitment to the Declaration.

“The Government can and should do a lot more than pay lip service to the guiding principles in the Declaration,” he said.

A community guide to the Declaration is available at

Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597

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