By Alex Schlotzer
Four years ago the United Nations acted on almost 30 years of advocacy by Indigenous Peoples around the world and adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says progress on its implementation has been slow.
Commissioner Gooda said the Declaration was formally endorsed by Australia on 3 April 2009 noting it recognises the fundamental rights enjoyed by Indigenous peoples around the world, had been opposed by Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada when first adopted.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were involved in campaigning for, and drafting, the Declaration which contains minimum standards for the survival, dignity and wellbeing of Indigenous peoples.
Although opposition to the Declaration is now confined to history, there needs to remain determined efforts to make sure Australia’s communities, bureaucrats and politicians know how to use it in their everyday lives.
Commissioner Gooda said:
“We need to increase people’s understanding of what it means to ‘implement the Declaration’ and one of the best ways to do this is through education.
“We’ve had some great successes over the last couple of years that are consistent with the spirit of the Declaration, such as the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the current consultation towards recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution.
“However I’d like to see a sustained commitment by the Australian Government to apply a holistic and coordinated approach to giving full effect to the Declaration.”
An example that Commissioner Gooda provided was an explicit acknowledgement in the National Human Rights Framework currently being developed by the government, that the framework will use the Declaration to guide its operation in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
It’s important that the Government engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to negotiate and develop an action plan to give full effect to the Declaration. Implementing the standards in the Declaration would foster strong relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the larger Australian community, including with the government.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has developed education materials on the Declaration which can be used to inform discussions about what full and proper implementation of the Declaration looks like.
Alex Schlotzer is a straight talker when it comes to politics and loves to vent his spleen. Actively involved in Australian and international politics with a keen understanding of the dynamics of the political machine, Alex has a prolific online presence and has been a cyber activist for over 15 years. Co- editor of theangle.org, he can also be found at his blog and his exciting online project Australian Politics TV