Self-determination program

Indigenous Rights

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.

This is why Oxfam was a signatory to the Redfern Statement during the 2016 Federal election. The Statement came about because of the growing frustration amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in a range of sectors that governments of all persuasions were not listening to Indigenous people.

In 2016 we worked with the Kimberley Land Council to highlight the ongoing fight to secure land rights for Aboriginal people in the Kimberley and speak out against the discriminatory practices of the Western Australia Government in relation to proposals to forcibly close remote Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley; changes to the Cultural Heritage Act which would weaken Aboriginal peoples ability to protect their cultural heritage; and the creation of new conservation areas on Aboriginal land that would require people to give up their native title rights.

Strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ influence

We are working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ and organisations to ensure their 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 help to create it. For example, in April 2015 we joined several Indigenous, not for profit, and law reform organisations to launch the Change the Record campaign to reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system and incarcerated.

In 2016 we were part of the Redfern Statement – an impassioned call for greater engagement in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations during the 2016 Federal election. In 2017 we supported an event in the Great Hall of the Parliament hosted by prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and organisations who presented the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a copy of the Redfern Statement and reminded him that Indigenous people have the solutions to the complex policy issues Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face.

And we continue to organise regional and national Straight Talk summits which bring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women together with female parliamentarians to explore ways to advance reconciliation, justice and equality for Indigenous Australians. In 2016 we held our first ever Straight Talk event with the Victorian Local Government Association (VLGA) which brought together Aboriginal women in Victoria interested in local government. We also hosted a National Summit in Canberra.

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.

In 2010 National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was established after an independent Steering Committee designed and led the creation of the organisation. It received widespread support as an entirely Indigenous driven initiative. We support a national representative body and believe it must be sustainable and meet the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

More than ever Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need an independent representative body that provides fearless advice to the government of the day on policies that will make a difference to the lives of Indigenous Australians.

During the 2016 Federal election we were part of the historic Redfern Statement alongside National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and we continue to call for the Australian Government refund the organisation.

International Links

Oxfam Australia has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation at the United Nations and other international forums. Recently we supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to participate in a United Nations Indigenous fellowship program in Geneva; to undertake Fulbright Scholarship in the United States; to attend international climate change talks in Paris (2015) and Marrakesh (2016).

Oxfam’s own Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff attended an international forum in Canada on youth and inequality and met with First Nations people in Canada to share experiences and knowledge on issues such as inequality. Our staff spoke to forum organisers about the issues that impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people here in Australia.

“It’s a great privilege and opportunity to be here. Every day I’m immersed in learning and discussing issues that impact on Indigenous people. It’s informative and I’m passionate about supporting my own people and working with other Indigenous people” – Eddie Cubillo, Oxfam Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group member, UN Indigenous fellowship Program, Geneva, 2016.

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.

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.

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.

 

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