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In this keynote address to AIATSIS Native Title Conference, Social Justice Commissioner asks how the annually tabled Native Title and Social Justice reports can be used to achieve the aims of reconciliation.

I will start by giving you some background to my role as the Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The office of the Social Justice Commissioner is responsible for two annual reports: the Native Title Report, which reviews the impact of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) on the exercise and enjoyment of the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and the Social Justice Report, which reports on issues affecting the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in accordance with the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth).

Although both of these reports are tabled annually in Parliament, it is my view that they are only useful if we can do something with them. So the question I thought about when I started in this position about 18 months ago is: how can we use these reports to achieve our aims?

In the Native Title Report 2010, I outlined my key priorities relating to native title. These are:

To advance the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the Declaration) in Australia.

To promote the development of stronger and deeper relationships:

 

  • between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader community
  • between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and government
  • within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

 

I also set out the themes in native title that I want to focus on during my five-year term. These are:

 

  • building an understanding of, and respect for, our rights to our lands, territories and resources throughout Australia
  • creating a just and fair native title through law and policy reform
  • promoting effective engagement between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • •enhancing our capacity to realise our social, cultural and economic development aspirations.

 

These priorities and themes have been informed in part by the many conversations that I have had on my travels; and in part by my own involvement in the Indigenous policy environment.

Importantly, these key areas of relationships are embedded in and derived from the human rights agenda and the Declaration.

So what do these priorities mean for us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

Image: 'Everleigh Street', Newtown grafitti / flickr

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