Self-determination program

The ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to freely determine their own political, economic, social and cultural development is fundamental to realising their rights.

We’re committed to helping Indigenous Australians realise their right to self-determination. In a practical sense, it’s about ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are able make decisions about policies and programs that directly affect their lives, and respecting and supporting these decisions.

Training Indigenous human rights advocates

Advocating for human rights is an essential part of ensuring equality and justice. Oxfam Australia supports human rights and advocacy training workshops through the Diplomacy Training Program.

Since February 2007, Oxfam Australia has funded a range of 5-day training workshops for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocates to equip them with knowledge of international human rights standards and mechanisms, as well as lobbying and campaigning skills.

The 2011 Human Rights and Advocacy Diplomacy Training Program was held in Melbourne from 7-11 February in partnership with the Victorian Indigenous Youth Advisory Council (VIYAC) and the Indigenous Education Department of La Trobe University.

The program provided participants with a greater understanding of the internationally recognised rights of Indigenous Peoples. The knowledge and expertise of the program’s Indigenous rights advocates also helped participants develop skills to promote, protect and fulfil these rights more effectively. Also covered was the Victorian Charter on Human Rights, as well as internet research methods for advocacy, lobbying and media skills. Participants were encouraged to network and share their experiences.

Find out more about the Diplomacy Training program, VIYAC and the Indigenous Education Department at La Trobe University.

Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia (IHRNA)

IHRNA began as a discussion among graduates of the Diplomacy Training Program at the University of New South Wales. They identified a need for a network that gave Indigenous people access to information about human rights, that would also provide them with the skills and support to undertake effective advocacy work.

The network will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and human rights organisations to:

  • Take part in key United Nations processes
  • Access guidance and mentoring opportunities from experienced human rights advocates
  • Build alliances and exchange information
  • Engage with all levels of government to negotiate agreements based on respect, rights and fairness

Find out more on the Indigenous Human Rights Network Australia (IHRNA) website.

Strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ influence

We’re doing all we can to make sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ voices are heard by Australia’s politicians and others in positions of power. And if there isn’t a forum for this to happen, we create it. For example, in September 2011 we hosted the Straight Talk summit, a national gathering which brought Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women together with female parliamentarians to explore ways to advance reconciliation, justice and equality for Indigenous Australians.

Taking it to the United Nations

Oxfam Australia is supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation at the United Nations. We’re working to address the lack of funding for Indigenous participation in international dialogue and to raise Indigenous concerns in the UN hierarchy — giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the opportunity to advocate for their human rights.

In 2009–2010 we supported our partners, the Australian Human Rights Commission and Indigenous Peoples Organisation Network, to provide opportunities for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to attend the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues in New York. In April 2010, four young women from Indigenous Australia participated in the forum with training and support from Oxfam Australia.

“Being part of the Australian youth delegation made me realise how complex things are and the importance of establishing relationships and networks,” says youth delegate Tammy Solonec.

“I loved that I was connecting with other Indigenous peoples from all around the world who were passionate about human rights, international law and advocating for better conditions for their people.”

Connecting young people with Indigenous leaders is essential to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s voices continue to be heard around the world.

Learn more about the issues raised at this year’s UN Permanent forum on Indigenous Issues.

Tracking the intervention

We support self-determination because it’s about Indigenous Australians controlling their own development and making their own decisions.  When decisions are imposed, on other hand, we have cause for concern.

The Northern Territory National Emergency Response Bill 2007 is a recent stark example of Indigenous affairs being comprehensively rewritten without consultation with the relevant Aboriginal communities.

We’ve supported Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory, among them the Larrakia Nation in Darwin and the Tangentyere Council in Alice Springs, to monitor the effects of the intervention and to contribute to the government’s review.

While these organisations found that many Aboriginal people welcomed the promise of more resources to help with policing, alcohol control and improved housing, there was also considerable anger around the way the intervention was planned, designed and implemented.

Our support for the Tangentyere Council’s research has also helped to fund the award-winning film Intervention which features interviews with more than 40 Alice Springs town-camp residents who discuss the impacts of the intervention on their lives. The result is town-campers speaking freely and for themselves.

Supporting a sustainable National Indigenous Representative Body

Since the demise of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), the Australian Government has indicated it intends to set up a new national Indigenous representative body. We support this initiative and the work of the Australian Human Rights Commission to ensure it is sustainable and meets the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Learn more

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