The Father of Reconciliation has outlined a path towards Truth and Treaty following the failure of the Indigenous Voice to Parliament Referendum
Yesterday the Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs published a report on it’s Inquiry into the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in Australia.
The declaration affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world by recognising their unique cultures contribute to the richness of humanity, how they have suffered from historic injustices, and calls against the erosion of cultures through forced assimilation.
Australia is yet to fully implement the declaration.
The report outlines how implementing the declaration in Australia may be challenging.
“Prior to colonisation, the Australian continent had long been occupied by hundreds of distinct Aboriginal nations and language groups, each bound by its own domains, laws, customs, language, and song.
Colonisation has done much to undermine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and has radically impacted on their rights to survive as unique peoples with respect to their own inherent values and priorities.”
The report argues the commonwealth can take a different approach to implement the declaration.
It says “the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart is one mechanism that aligns with the principles of UNDRIP,” and also points to state-based initiatives such as Victoria’s First Peoples Assembly, Queensland’s Path to Treaty and South Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The report detailed six recommendations, including an independent process to handle truth telling and treaty negotiations.
It also suggested improving Australia’s Education System.
Committee Chair and Outgoing Labor Senator Pat Dodson says “at the heart of this report is a call for all Australian governments and civil society to engage with the rights of First Peoples through UNDRIP.
The Committee heard clear evidence about how the enhanced application of UNDRIP offers a blueprint for a renewed relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian nation that strengthens our democracy and improves the wellbeing of First Peoples.”
Following the report’s release, Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe called for the UN declaration to be legislated in Australia.
The Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman said there was no pathway to justice without its implementation.
“It sets the minimum standard of human rights for our people.
Without respecting the bare minimum of our rights, the colonial state will continue to pursue its own dominance, resulting in the displacement, dispossession and death of our people.”
The Victorian senator has introduced a private member’s bill to legislate the declaration, which will be debated in the Senate next week.
“I urge the government to honour its commitment to truth and treaty and progress them in this term of government – our people have waited long enough.”
Senator Dodson says it was crucial the government continued to pursue Indigenous reconciliation after the failed referendum.
The West Australian senator and Yawuru man says the task of reconciliation was not just an Indigenous issue, but a national one.
“The lesson we learnt out of (the referendum) is the non-Indigenous people need to come on board with us.
You can’t have a treaty with yourself, you can’t have truth telling on your own … it’s going to involve all of us.
Closing the disadvantage gap and economically empowering First Nations people also needed to remain on the agenda.”
Senator Dodson will leave parliament on January 26, explaining cancer treatment had taken a significant toll on his physical health.
Before entering parliament, he has held several high profile roles and helped lead the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody.
While in office, he served as the Albanese government’s special envoy for reconciliation.
Image Credit: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas