UN envoy urges Australia to speed up treaty

The push for Constitutional change and a treaty in Australia has been backed in a United Nations report.

The report to the UN Human Rights Council this month followed the March visit to Australia by its Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

In the report she recommends that the Australian government “place full political weight” behind the proposals of the Referendum Council, including the setting up of a First Nations Voice to Parliament and a commission for treaty negotiation and truth-telling.

“Such measures would carry momentous significance to resetting the relationship with the First Peoples of Australia,” the report states.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz said the Australian government’s initiative on Constitutional change had “dragged on for nearly a decade”.

She said little progress had been made in key areas across Indigenous affairs since a UN rapporteur last visited Australian in 2009 and recommended changes.

But she said the Victorian, South Australian and Northern Territory governments were making positive moves by seeking a treaty with Aboriginal peoples.

Ms Tauli-Corpuz also took aim at the Federal Government’s de-funding of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

She said unlike the Congress, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Indigenous Advisory Council was not representative of Indigenous people because its members were appointed by the Prime Minister.

She called on the Federal Government to reinstate funding for the Congress and hold regular meetings with its members.

“Since 2014, the explicit defunding by the government of the national representative body for Indigenous peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, runs counter to the stated commitment of the government to working with Indigenous peoples,” the report states.

“In 2013, in a parallel move, the government established the Indigenous Advisory Council, which reports directly to the Prime Minister. While the council is composed of Indigenous experts in specific areas, it is not representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as its members are appointed by the Prime Minister.”

The report also states the government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy undermined the role of Indigenous organisations in providing services for their communities by shifting responsibility to mainstream organisations.

Ms Tauli-Corpez said it ran contrary to the principles of self-determination and participation.

She recommended the government transfer responsibility for local programs to Indigenous-led organisations.

The report states Australia’s failure to respect Indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination was “alarming”.

Wendy Caccetta

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