Enacting our sovereign rights


The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is about bringing people together and to build communities that are free from discrimination. Australia has just moved closer to enshrining it into domestic law.

By Lidia Thorpe

For the first time in this country's history, the federal government has moved closer towards enshrining our rights as First Nations people into domestic law. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, or UNDRIP, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 13 September 2007. It is the best mechanism through which we can enact our sovereign rights as the First People of this country, which have been denied since 1788.

In 2007, 144 countries voted in favour of the UNDRIP. If you want to know what shame looks like, you need to know that Australia was one of the four countries that voted against the UNDRIP.

The Rudd Government finally endorsed it in 2009, but this announcement was meaningless because it didn’t translate into implementation of the UNDRIP into our laws, until now.

During the final sitting week of the Senate, we established an inquiry into the application of the UNDRIP in this country. We also introduced a Private Senator’s Bill to compel the government to implement the UNDRIP.

These two wins are the first steps towards implementing the UNDRIP into our laws, policies and practice, including a full audit of existing laws, policies and practices to ensure they are compliant with the UNDRIP.

After 15 years, it took two Blak senators to finally make this happen. We’re creating  a better vision for this country’s future.

Upholding First Nations people’s right to care for Country, community and culture benefits everyone, especially in the context of the climate crisis. We all rely on our lands, waters and sky to survive. Likewise, our lands, waters and sky rely on us to survive. The UNDRIP will enshrine and protect our rights and our connection to Country, which would benefit all of us. 

The UNDRIP states that First Nations people are equal to all other peoples, while respecting our right to be different. It affirms that any doctrine, policy or practice based on racial superiority is scientifically false and legally invalid. 

The UNDRIP is about bringing people together, to build communities that are free from discrimination. This is well overdue. We hope you come on this journey with us.

Lidia Thorpe is a Gunnai, Gunditjmara and DjabWurrung woman and the Australian Greens First Nations portfolio-holder.

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