9 August 2007

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

Now more than ever the Australian Government should reconsider its position on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples currently before the UN General Assembly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said today on International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

“International Day of the World’s Indigenous People allows all of us to acknowledge the incredible achievements of an estimated 370 million Indigenous Peoples world wide,” Commissioner Calma said.

“It is also of critical importance that we use today to recommit ourselves to eradicating the ongoing poverty and discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples everywhere.

“In the past Australia has played an active and constructive role in developing the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples. In fact, Australia actively supported the establishment of the current 2nd International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, the theme of which is ‘building a partnership for action and dignity.’ However it seems somewhat ironic considering what is being played out in Australia with the fast passage of complex and lengthy legislation relating to the Northern Territory,” he said.

“We all know that the basis of good public policy is to actively involve the people who will be affected by government decision-making in the process of shaping those decisions. It is a fundamental human right of Indigenous peoples that their informed consent is sought when governments are making decisions that will impact on their land yet despite this, the legislation currently before Parliament has been developed without involvement or input from Indigenous people.”

Mr Calma said the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) was calling for the Northern Territory legislation to be reviewed one year after its implementation and for Indigenous voices to play a major role in such a review.

“While we have major challenges ahead domestically, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples currently before the UN General Assembly represents some hope on a global scale,” Mr Calma said.

“The Declaration’s text has been 20 years in the making and has the support of the world's Indigenous peoples. The Declaration is an instrument that complies with international law and equates the rights of Indigenous Peoples with the rights of all other peoples.

“It can only benefit the ability of Indigenous peoples to enjoy their distinct human rights and should be adopted without amendment,” Mr Calma said.

The International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is officially commemorated on 9 August annually in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations in Geneva in 1982.

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