UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Media release from the National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation – NACCHO


Last night the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous peoples around the world are celebrating but not in Australia said Mr Councillor, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation which represents over 140 community controlled health services.

The vote in the 192-member assembly was 143 in favour, four against and 11 abstentions. The four against were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US. Once again this government has shown its true racist colours.

By opposing this Declaration the Howard government has, once again, signalled to Aboriginal Australians that their rights aren’t worth defending, said Mr Councillor.

Not content with merely voting against the Declaration Mr Howard was also personally instrumental in turning the Canadian government against the policy following their election last year. Canada was a strong supporter of the Declaration until Mr Howard’s visit in May last year following which they became an outspoken critic very much in line with the Australian position.

This vote is the culmination of over 20 years of debate at the United Nations.

This is a non-binding declaration protecting the human, land and resources rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous people. It also recognises the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and sets global human rights standards for them – in fact, rights of all individuals but as they relate to Indigenous Peoples.

The rights contained in the Declaration are not new. They are rights that have been codified by the UN member states in countless treaties and have existed for the entire life of the UN since the adoption of the universal declaration of Human Rights.

Clearly we can’t trust the Howard Coalition to make life fairer for Aboriginal peoples in Australia. It’s a sad day for the people I represent.

This government has never shown respect for our human rights. Practical Reconciliation has always been a way to avoid recognising human rights. This just confirms this once again said an angry and frustrated Mr Councillor.

For the Aboriginal peoples of Australia to prosper, for the 17 year life expectancy gap to be closed, we need a government that shows respect for our human rights. How can we trust the government to do the right thing if they will not recognise us as equals?

Partnerships are built on trust. Once again Howard and his government have betrayed our trust by denying our basic human rights.

Read the Declaration in its full version on the Office of the United National High Commissioner for Human Rights website:

Content of the Declaration

The Declaration is a long and complex document with a preamble and 45 articles, divided into nine sections.
The text recognises the wide range of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. Among these are the right to unrestricted self-determination, an inalienable collective right to the ownership, use and control of lands, territories and other natural resources, their rights in terms of maintaining and developing their own political, religious, cultural and educational institutions along with the protection of their cultural and intellectual property. The Declaration highlights the requirement for prior and informed consultation, participation and consent in activities of any kind that impact on indigenous peoples, their property or territories. It also establishes the requirement for fair and adequate compensation for violation of the rights recognised in the Declaration and establishes guarantees against ethnocide and genocide.
The Declaration also provides for fair and mutually acceptable procedures to resolve conflicts between indigenous peoples and States, including procedures such as negotiations, mediation, arbitration, national courts and international and regional mechanisms for denouncing and examining human rights violations.



Filed under Aboriginal, australia, history, justice, politics, reconciliation

7 responses to “UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

  1. John Rawnsley

    In reference to the Aust Gvts response I’ve compared the provisions of the Declaration and posted them on my blog – http://rawnsley.wordpress.com/

  2. I have just posted a response on John Rawnsley’s blog (above) which in part disagrees with what he says.

    However I recommend this blog to readers and have included it on the link list.

    John is a worker in the office of Northern Territory A.L.P. parliamentarian Alison Anderson, but his blog is his own opinions.

    Here is a perspective from the NT phenomenon of Aboriginal Parliamentarians – an unfolding story worth watching

  3. John Rawnsley

    Hi Paradigm Oz,
    Thanks for the link.
    I note Howard’s attempts to portray the Opposition as against the Territory intervention, by linking their support to the Declaration. But I guess there’s too much ‘big stories’ in the news lately so it didn’t achieve much prominence (although many news websites ran with it heavily).

  4. Ana

    the libs & labour are two cheeks 0f the same arse.
    some good comment here from Anhi on the Declaration:

  5. Ana

    “AUSTRALIA and New Zealand’s refusal to be
    signatories to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples may have stemmed from past injustices inflicted on
    indigenous people, the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre (PCRC) believes.

    The Centre’s spokeswoman Ema Tagicakibau referred to Australia as probably being frightened of not having come to terms with inflicting
    violations on indigenous people.

    ”If you read through the content of the declaration there are practices, past practices or injustices that had been inflicted on indigenous people. For example, in Australia, the removal of children
    from their families and put into missions,” Ms Tagicakibau told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat program.

    The United Nations on 13th September overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Declaration.

    The majority of 143 voted in favour, 11 abstained and four – Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States – voted against.

    The Declaration has been negotiated through more than 20 years between nation States and indigenous peoples.

    ”I believe it is because the two countries and in this instance Australia, has not come to terms with the past injustices and being able to reconcile itself and to admitting that it had, as a State, inflicted violations on the indigenous people. Probably there are sensitive issues in the declaration they are not prepared to support,” Ms Tagicakibau said.”


  6. Ana has posted this link on another thread. It is an analysis of the declaration from “Fourth World Eye”


    This analysis is, in my opinion, correct in being dismissive of the declarations capacity to mean anything in real terms.

    Australian indigenous people have been at the forefront of pushing this declaration for the last 20 years and I have generally considered this a waste of time in the past.

    However I have changed my mind about its importance.

    Firstly, as Ana’s link indicates, it is a declaration of principle to inform international law making, not an international law itself. While it is impotent now, as new international law is made and ammended in this fast changing globalised society, as it inevitably will this century, indigenous people are not invisible in this law making as they have been until now, they have a small toehold into the system and the debates as global law is made, however that will happen. This is no legal security but a tactical target for real political campaigns on the ground.

    Bejam Denis Walker of the Noonucal nation has twice been to the high court with the assertion of “no jurisdiction”, being that on the basis of Terra Nullius being a corrupted principle of law, and dismissed by the high court, all law that flows from it is tainted, including British occupation and the Queen’s laws enabling the police to arrest him or white courts to try him. The high court determined that since its own authority comes from the crown it is not able to judge its own legitimacy and can only determine matters on the basis of crown law. The legitimacy or otherwise of Terra Nullis and British possession was a matter for international law – beyond the jurisdiction of the high court.

    When the High Court ruled on Eddie Mabo’s claim that Terra Nullius was a lie they relied heavily on international precedence, in particular U.S. and Canada’s acknowledgements of prior indigenous title.

    There is international law regarding land title, but the broader issues of sovereignty, self government, compensation and customary law have not yet been defined. But they are inherent in the new declaration.

    A future “no jurisdiction” or similar action, if successful will not change things, it will be quickly accomodated as Native title did to Eddie Mabo’s successful land claim. However both cases need to be understood in the broader struggle and tactics of exploiting inherent contradictions of the enemy. Hitting the weak spots where their defences are low rather than only responding with protest to the strongest and most brutal aspects of their power.

  7. Ana

    Pono, back to Land Rights, Struggle & Aboriginal Sovereignty then. Us Indigenous mobs all over the Pacific need to hook up.
    Mauri Ora

    “The struggle for the power to freely exercise the right of self-determination now takes on a new dimension–indigenous peoples themselves will now come to believe they not only have the right, but they have the duty to freely choose their own social, economic, political and cultural future. Fourth World nations will have to develop some of their own new international laws to define how the
    world operates. They are at least tentatively now, a part of the international community as peoples. When they act of their own volition, those who opposed the Declaration and those who will
    obstruct its implementation will face increasingly determined nations seeking to be free. The struggle begins.”


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