United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Category: Event
Sub Category:Declaration
Location:Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Subject Matter:Access | Compensation | Cultural Heritage | Customary Law | Economic Development | Education | Employment and Training | Future Act | Health and Community Services | Housing, Construction and Infrastructure | Implementation | Land Management | Land Planning | Land Settlement | Land Transaction | Land Use | Law - Policy and Justice | Leadership | Local Government | Management / Administration | Native Title | Native Title - Extinguishment | Recognition Agreement / Acknowledgement | Recognition of Native Title or Traditional Ownership | Recognition of Traditional Rights and Interests | Reconciliation | Self Government | Water | Youth
URL: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
Summary Information:
On 3 April 2009 the Australian Federal Government formally announced Australia’s official support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the 'Declaration') (Macklin, 2009). The Declaration outlines international norms regarding the rights of Indigenous peoples, covering economic, social, cultural and self-determination rights, among others. While this is a non-binding, aspirational document, support for it suggests a commitment to uphold the rights it describes.
Detailed Information:
Purpose

The purpose of the Declaration is to outline and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples throughout the world.

Key Objectives and Principles

The drafting of the Declaration began in 1985, when governments worked directly with Indigenous peoples to develop a significant human rights document. Many prominent Indigenous Australians played a significant role in developing the draft Declaration, including Les Malezer, Professor Mick Dodson and Tom Calma (Macklin 2009). The Declaration is a comprehensive statement addressing the rights of Indigenous people.

The Declaration was officially adopted 29 June 2006 during the inaugural session of the Human Rights Council. It was then moved before the General Assembly, where on 17 September 2007, 143 nations voted in support of the Declaration. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US voted against it.

On 3 April 2009, the Federal Government announced that Australia had officially given its support to the Declaration.

The Declaration is not legally binding (it is not strictly a treaty at international law) but represents international human rights norms that should be universally complied with (Malezer, 2009).

The Declaration focuses on individual and collective rights with regard to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and a number of other issues.
It highlights the rights of Indigenous peoples to maintain their own institutions, traditions and cultures and the right to develop their economic and social needs and aspirations as a group. Discrimination against Indigenous peoples is prohibited and their full and effective participation and informed consent in all matters that concern them is promoted. The right to self-determination is also included in the Declaration.

Implementation

Although giving support for a declaration at international law does not make the articles of that document legally binding and does not alter domestic law, the Declaration may nevertheless have an important political impact through its strong moral value (Davis, 2008).

Jenny Macklin has announced the Federal Government’s intention to introduce legislation to lift the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Macklin, 2009); an Act through which many rights of Indigenous people are protected in Australia. Further, the Declaration may be used by the Australian courts as an interpretation tool in cases of statutory ambiguity (Davis, 2008).

It may be necessary for the Federal Government to introduce legislation in order to bring Australian domestic law into line with all the articles of the Declaration.

Related Entries

Organisation
  • United Nations - Signatory
  • Commonwealth of Australia - Signatory
  • Event
  • UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  • References

    General Reference
    United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
    Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (3 April 2009) Australia Supports Declaration on Indigenous Peoples
    Kirstie Parker, The Koori Mail (Wednesday 8 April) Australia Supports UN Declaration
    Australian Human Rights Commission (3 April 2009) UN Declaration a Milestone for Indigenous People
    Emma Rodgers, ABC News (3 April 2009) Australia Adopts UN Indigenous Declaration
    Les Malezer Mabo Lecture (10th Annual Native Title Conference 2009)
    United Nations News Centre Experts Hail Australia's Backing of UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples' Rights
    United Nations Frequently Asked Questions on the Declaration of Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
    United Nations United Nations Treaty Collection Glossary
    Megan Davis (2008) Indigenous Struggles in Standard Setting: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples