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International Day of the World's Indigenous People

posted Aug 8, 2014, 12:58 AM by Sean Donovan   [ updated Aug 8, 2014, 12:58 AM ]



The United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is celebrated every year on 9 August. In 2014, the theme is Bridging the gap: implementing the rights of Indigenous peoples.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of this day, we are reflecting on the unique contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the world stage and talking about how we can enhance the rights of Australia’s First Peoples at home.


 

Australia on the world stage

The Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Professor Megan Davis, and the Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr Gary Quinlan


Globally, there are over 350 million Indigenous people, representing over 5,000 cultures and languages in more than 70 different countries.
Across Australia, over half a million Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people practice hundreds of different cultures and speak 145 distinct languages however 110 of these languages are classed as severely and critically endangered.

The UN General Assembly first proclaimed the Day of the World’s Indigenous People in 1994 and adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007.
Les Malezer, a Gubbi Gubbi and Butchulla man from north Queensland, and now Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, had the honour of addressing the UN General Assembly on behalf of the Indigenous peoples of the world, to welcome the adoption of the Declaration in 2007.  However, Australia did not formally endorse the Declaration until 2009, and was one of only four countries to initially vote against it.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are amongst the most imprisoned populations in the world.
The rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners is 15 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners.  While only about 3% of the Australian population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners represent 27% of the total prisoner population.


 

Indigenous rights – why do they matter?




The rights of all people are protected under international human rights law, however for many Indigenous peoples around the world these basic human rights have often been denied. As some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people the in the world, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognises the unique collective rights of Indigenous peoples to make decisions about their lives (e.g. to be self-determining) and to protect their distinct cultures, languages, and knowledge.

What is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) sets international standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples. The Declaration is necessary to combat the policies of assimilation and integration employed by colonisers throughout the world that have uprooted, marginalised and dispossessed First Nation peoples.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is critical to ensuring the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia are protected, and their culture, heritage and contributions are celebrated and acknowledged.

“In my discussions with Aboriginal people, I could sense the deep hurt and pain that they have suffered because of government policies that are imposed on them. I also saw Aboriginal people making great efforts to improve their communities, but noted that their efforts are often stifled by inappropriate and inflexible policies that fail to empower the most effective, local solutions.”

- The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, during her visit to Australia, 2011.

Find out more about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or read:

·         a community guide to the Declaration developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

·         a guide to the Declaration and current law in Australia developed by DLA Piper.


 

A world of firsts…the world’s oldest cultures




Indigenous peoples across the world hold knowledge and perspectives unique within our global heritage.  As Australians we can all take pride in the unique histories and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that shape Australia today…

·         Australia is the home of a global heritage: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are the oldest living cultures in the world. 

·         Recent evidence suggests that the ancestors of Australia’s Traditional Owners were the first modern humans to leave Africa, over 70,000 years ago.

·         Australia is the site of the world’s oldest burial rites and cremation ceremonies at Lake Mungo in NSW. Discovered 40 years ago this year, Mungo Man is estimated to be 42,000 years old, though some say he could be as old as 60,000 years. He represents the earliest evidence of modern humans to be found outside of Africa. 

·         The world’s oldest oral histories reside in Australia, such as the Wadi Nyi Nyi Dreaming stories of the Pitjantjatjara people, which describe the rising seas that occurred 18,000 to 6,700 years ago.

·         The invention of the returning boomerang is thousands of years old, an achievement unique to Australia.


 

Take action…




·         Join the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Membership is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and individuals over the age of 18 years.

·         Lend your voice to the Recognise campaign for the recognition of Australia’s First Peoples in our Constitution.

·         Support the Indigenous Law Centre, so that they can continue their important work on enhancing the legal rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples both in Australia and internationally.

·         Hear about the journey of Professor Megan Davis who made history as the first Australian Aboriginal woman to be elected to a United Nations body in 2010. 

·         Learn more about the culturally rich environment of Lake Mungo - one of the world’s very special places.

·         Think about things you can do in your sphere of influence to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Reconciliation Australia would like to thank the Indigenous Law Centre, Mungo National Park and the UN for their help in the production of this factsheet.

Photo credits:
Banner: UN Photo/John Isaac.
1. The Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Professor Megan Davis, and His Excellency Mr Gary Quinlan, Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General.

2. Poster for the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, UN.
3. A World of Firsts, visitmungo.com.au.











Reconciliation Australia acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respect to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

This email was sent to [email address suppressed], and this will be the email address affected upon clicking the links below.



Reconciliation Australia
PO Box 4773, Kingston ACT 2602
www.reconciliation.org.au


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