On the 13th of September, we celebrate the anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigineous Peoples or UNDRIP. It was a momentous day for Indigenous peoples. After 25 years of deliberation, in 2007, this international instrument was adopted. The aim of protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples in the world.
Because Indigenous people, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, participated in the Declaration's formulation, it has special significance. However, our nation initially voted against this declaration. Let’s review the content of this UN Declaration and discover why Australia voted against UNDRIP at first.
What is the UNDRIP
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigineous Peoples, or the UNDRIP, is the most thorough international document pertaining to Indigenous peoples' rights. It elaborates on current human rights laws and fundamental freedoms as they pertain to Indigenous peoples and proposes a global framework of minimal standards for survival, dignity, and well-being.
Rights Categories Protected by the UNDRIP
The International Institute for Environment and Development have summarized the Declaration’s protection on Indigenous rights into five categories:
The right to the lands, territories, and resources that indigenous peoples have historically owned, inhabited, or otherwise used is stated in the UN Declaration. They have the right to possess, utilise, create, and manage these. These lands, regions, and resources must get legal acknowledgement and protection from the state.
The practise of maintaining and reviving indigenous peoples' cultural practises is recognized. Indigenous peoples have the right to preserve, manage, safeguard, and advance their cultural legacy, traditional knowledge, and traditional artistic manifestations. They also have the right to their genetic resources, seeds, medicines, and understanding of the characteristics of flora and fauna.
Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions. They have the right to uphold and deepen their special spiritual ties to the resources that they have historically owned, occupied, or used.
Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination and the right to participate in decisions that would affect those rights.
Free Prior and Informed Consent:
Indigenous peoples have the freedom to choose and create goals and plans for the use or development of their lands, territories, and other resources. Prior to approving any project affecting Indigenous peoples' lands, territories, and other resources, particularly in connection with the use of mineral, water, or other resources, states must consult with Indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions to obtain their free prior informed consent.
Australia and the UNDRIP
We at DulcieDot believe it is a must to discuss Australia’s initial non-support of the UNDRIP. In 2007, Australia refused to sign the declaration. The Nation's delegates contended that, particularly in the context of land disputes and the extraction of natural resources, the degree of autonomy acknowledged for Indigenous peoples in the UNDRIP was problematic and would threaten the sovereignty of their own governments. Ultimately in 2009, Australia reversed its position. However, this did not reflect any significant change in the nation’s policies. In fact, the Northern Territory National Emergency Response or “The Intervention” was created; a questionable policy towards Indigenous peoples. This problematic intervention, which suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and other laws that protect Indigenous peoples, is not due until 2022. “The Intervention” is just one of the manifestations of a continuing disregard of Indigenous people’s rights.
The UNDRIP is a very powerful instrument that protects the very basic rights of Indigenous peoples. The adoption of the Declaration greatly benefits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This helps them uphold their rights especially regarding to use of land, resources, as well as practise culture. And although Australia now supports the UNDRIP, we must continue to look after our First Nations peoples. Australia must respect the adoption of the UNDRIP.