NATIONAL: THE NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the only Australian Aboriginal organisation with speaking rights at the United Nations, delivered three key agenda items to the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) in New York last month.
The Permanent Forum is an advisory body to the UN’s Economic and Social Council, and is specifically devoted to discussing Indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.
NSWALC Councillors Roy Ah See and Craig Cromelin presented three interventions, or recommendations, to the forum, highlighting constitutional reform, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and water rights for Indigenous Australians.
NSWALC’s activities included :
• Recommending the forum urge Australia to take steps to amend section 51(xxi) of the Constitution, so that laws can no longer be enacted to discriminate against Indigenous people on the basis of race.
• Arguing that only mentioning Indigenous peoples in the preamble to the constitution does not go far enough.
• Highlighting the concerns that a lack of constitutional protection has been used to discriminate against Aboriginal people in the past, through measures like the NT intervention.
• Calling on the forum to urge all states to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in domestic law.
• Recommending that the Permanent Forum urge all states to ensure the rights over water for Indigenous peoples worldwide are protected, and that Indigenous participation in water resource management debates is ensured, and Indigenous knowledge shared.
Many of these recommendations were adopted into the draft report released at the end of the forum. The Permanent Forum concluded that the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in domestic law remained “a big challenge in most regions around the world”.
It also urged all states to “recognize and protect Indigenous peoples’ right to water and related resources” and include Indigenous peoples in all decision making processes in relation to water management.