'The Kimberley Land Council has received widespread international support at the United Nations for condemning Aboriginal community closures in Western Australia.
Global human rights organisations, Indigenous organisations and NGOs from Australia, India, New Zealand and the United States pledged support to the KLC as it highlighted the discriminatory and race-based erosion of Indigenous rights currently occurring in Australia.
KLC Chairman Anthony Watson and CEO Nolan Hunter addressed the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York today and met with key influencers including Victoria Tauli Corpus, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Australia’s Professor Megan Davis who was elected to chair the forum.
Mr Watson said it was great to be able to raise international awareness about the forced closure of Indigenous communities and legislative changes to the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act, on such a high-profile, global platform like the United Nations.
“Indigenous people in Australia are witnessing a discriminatory and race-based erosion of their rights while the attempted assimilation of Indigenous people into white Australia is presenting a significant risk to our economic, social and cultural wellbeing,” he said.
“This is occurring through the forced closure of Indigenous communities, attempting once again to separate people from their land and culture.
“This is occurring through laws that erode avenues for Indigenous people to protect their cultural heritage and discriminatory land tenure administration, including the systematic interference with attempts by Indigenous people to pursue culturally appropriate and sustainable economic development opportunities.
“The Australian Government has taken no steps to protect Indigenous people in response to these measures.’’
Mr Watson said the Australian Government was in breach of its obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He said this particularly related to Article 8 which states that Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.
“Community closures and changes to the WA Aboriginal Heritage Act strip Indigenous people of our rights to protect culture and dispossess us from our lands. These are human rights issues,’’ he said.
“Our calls in Australia for engagement, discussion and empowerment have fallen on deaf ears. We are being ignored by all levels of government. The United Nations provides an international platform for us to raise awareness about these racist and discriminatory actions.’’
Mr Watson said Aboriginal people want to be able to make the decisions that affect their futures, be involved in the implementation of solutions and take responsibility for their actions.
“Our message is clear: Aboriginal people want to be involved in all levels of decision-making and in the implementation of those decisions. We understand our issues better than anyone else and we know the best way to address those issues. We want to be accountable; we want to be in charge of our own futures. We ask that governments stop dictating to us and start engaging with us.’’
The KLC will be attending United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues until April 26.
Kimberley Land Council United Nations submission extracts’
Just to remind you that I blogged on United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in March and had 860 Likes, so it’s a hot topic.