Upholding human rights of First Nations people vital to Closing the Gap
9 December 2023
On Human Rights Day (10 December), the Law Council of Australia once again calls on the Commonwealth to take steps to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law, policy and practice in a comprehensive manner.
“The theme for this year’s Human Rights Day is Freedom, Equality and Justice for all,” Law Council of Australia President, Mr Luke Murphy said. “But we know Australia’s First Nations peoples face significant disadvantage and disparity in many areas, including health, education, workforce engagement, the protection of cultural heritage and land rights, incarceration rates, family violence, and the treatment of persons in contact with the criminal justice and child protection systems.
“UNDRIP is the authoritative international standard informing the way governments across the globe should engage with and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples. Last week the Joint Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs released its report on the application of UNDRIP in Australia. We welcome the Committee’s consideration of this important topic and its recommendations.
“Across party lines there is much talk recently about practical support for Closing the Gap. To help achieve these priority reforms and targets, it is critical that the Australian Government ensure that its approach to developing legislation and policy on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is consistent with UNDRIP, as called for by the Committee. It should have the bipartisan support of the Parliament in this approach.
“Fundamentally, Closing the Gap is an acknowledgment of the failure to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the same standard as the rest of the Australian population generally. “Closing the Gap is strengthened when it is framed though UNDRIP standards, such as the principle of self-determination, which involves Indigenous peoples having greater management, control, and responsibility over their lives.
“The Law Council has repeatedly emphasised that a National Action Plan, developed in consultation with First Nations peoples, could help achieve comprehensive implementation of the UNDRIP. It has also sought to have the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth) amended to include the UNDRIP in the definition of ‘human rights’ to be formally considered by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights when scrutinising legislation.
“Therefore, we were very pleased to see both of these proposals reflected in the Committee’s recommendations.
“On this year’s Human Rights Day, Australia should do more than pay lip service to UNDRIP and commit to real measures to implement it.”
P. 0400 054 227