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10th Anniversary of the UN General Assembly adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) ACT Human Rights Commission

Aboriginal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

[Introduction in Bunuba]

Jalangurru garrwarri balanggarri.

Good afternoon everyone.
Thank you Violet Sheridan for your warm welcome to country.

I would like to begin by acknowledging your people, the Ngunnawal people, the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we meet today.

Thank you President and Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Helen Watchirs of the ACT Human Rights Commission and your staff for inviting me to speak here today.

I am a proud Bunuba woman from Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia, and it gives me great pleasure to be here with you all on the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (1) 

The Declaration

The Declaration represents an historical milestone in the international struggle by the world's Indigenous peoples towards acknowledgement and respect of their rights as unique and distinct peoples.

It was drafted, by Indigenous peoples, for Indigenous peoples. I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the significant contribution of Indigenous Australians in negotiating and drafting the Declaration.

Many of you today would be aware, it took a little over 20 years before the Declaration was finally adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007. Whilst our country has only formally supported the Declaration since 2009, we have some way to go in terms of giving practical effect to this framework in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Declaration provides the minimum standards necessary for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples of the world.  Whilst it is the best tool for guiding the human rights of our peoples, it reaffirms Australia’s existing obligations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that are already captured by the major treaties.

The challenge that we now have is about implementation and how we can translate this framework into purposeful action by Government in order to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This doesn’t just mean outlining what existing laws and policies align with the Declaration, but actually working with human rights institutions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples towards breathing life into this document.

As the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, it is my role to raise awareness of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to provide guidance to Government on how to promote and protect these rights.
I have said that during my term, that I will work to translate these international frameworks into part of the everyday reality for our people.

This year’s anniversary provides an important opportunity to reinforce our status, our value and our rights as Australia’s First Peoples but is also a time to think about the work that still remains to be done. 

Giving effect to the Declaration

I acknowledge that the ACT Human Rights Act embodies articles of the Declaration and the significant role the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body had in the inclusion of Indigenous rights.

Places like the ACT and Victoria are well ahead of all other states in giving effect to the Declaration. However, we need commitments from all governments, state and federal, through a national implementation strategy.

This year during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, I urged all states to:

• Conduct an audit of their laws, policies and programs and embed human rights training into their structures to ensure consistency with the Declaration and to
• Commit to work with their National Human Rights Institutions to give full effect to the Declaration
I look forward to working with the Australian government in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to breathe life into the Declaration into what we hope will become a National Implementation Strategy.

This means helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to realise their rights to self-determination and to participate in matters that affect them.

This means heeding the aspirations that our peoples have for truth, for treaty and for voice- goals which are all captured by the Uluru Statement which was delivered by our peoples earlier this year and which clearly align with principles of the Declaration. The Statement said:

When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country. We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution. Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.

The time has come for Australia to do more on the Declaration and an implementation strategy and constitutional reform are the next logical steps on this journey.

Yaninyja.

Thank you.


1. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, GA Resolution 61/295, UN Doc A/61/L.67 (2007), art 43.

Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

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