Senate inquiry launched as Greens seek to enshrine UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
A bill introduced by Federal Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe to bring Australian law into line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could offer protection to Aboriginal heritage, its supporters claim.
Ms Thorpe, a Gunnai, Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung woman, described the Bill as the first step towards implementing the Declaration into Australian law, policy and practice.
Significantly, the Senate also passed a motion to establish an inquiry into the application of the Declaration.
Ms Thorpe said Australian governments had made decisions “about us, without us” for too long.
“Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will put First Nations people back in the driver’s seat, so we can control our own destiny,” she said.
“The Declaration…is about First Nations people having the final say in First Nations affairs. This is about protecting our right to free, prior and informed consent about what happens to our country, our culture and our people.
When the UN General Assembly voted on the declaration in 2007, Australia was one of only four countries out of 147 to oppose it.
In 2009, the Rudd government adopted the Declaration, but took no steps to implement its principles in Australia.
In July 2017, while running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, the Australian government pledged to support the Declaration, but no mention was made in the Closing the Gap reports. until the end of 2021.
“Senator Payne said in 2007 that something as important as UNDRIP should not be rushed. For 15 years, successive governments failed to act,” Ms Thorpe said.
Regina McKenzie, a member of the Viliwarinha Yura Aboriginal Corporation, has fought to protect areas on the traditional lands of the Kuyani and Adnyamathanha peoples in the western Flinders Ranges, where drilling and other work has been carried out despite assessments having found important sites and artefacts.
“I believe if we get the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law here in Australia, that would recognize our cultural heritage rights, our beliefs,” she said.
“Australia was a diverse country before colonization, the land of many nations and diverse cultures. This statement is about the rights of our nationalities. I am a Yurartu. This is something we want to be recognized .
“We say ourselves that we have needed it for a long time. I lobbied many politicians, state and federal, to try to get the UN declaration into effect.
Ms McKenzie said there was no real protection to stop events like the destruction of Juukan Gorge.