UN PERMANENT FORUM ON INDIGENOUS ISSUES:ITEM 4 DISCUSSION ON THE SIX MANDATED AREAS OF THE PERMANENT FORUM
20 April 2023
Statement by Mr Justin Mohamed, Ambassador for First Nations People, Australia
Australia is prioritising the six mandated areas of the Permanent Forum through our commitment to the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. Under this Agreement, Priority Reforms commit Australian governments, at all levels, to work in partnership with Indigenous Australians to design and deliver policies, services and programs to improve our life outcomes. These Reforms support self-determination and progress on economic and social development, culture, environment, education, health and human rights.
The Priority Reforms commit all Australian governments to:
- Strengthen and establish formal partnerships and shared decision-making;
- Build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector;
- Transform government organisations so they work better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and
- Improve and share access to data and information to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to make informed decisions.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap aligns with several United Nations instruments on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, in particular the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Sadly the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people have become unsustainable chasms, denying First Nations Australians the right to equal opportunities, choices and quality of life.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the perspectives of Indigenous Australians are actively considered and incorporated in formal decision-making processes. This commitment includes implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart – an invitation to the Australian people drafted and delivered by 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in 2017, following an extensive consultation process with Indigenous Australians all over the country. The Uluru Statement from the Heart identified a path to build a better future through a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, and a Makarrata Commission for treaty making and truth-telling.
A Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, along with recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first people of Australia, will go to a national referendum this year. Constitution recognition will mean formally acknowledging over 65,000 years of continuous connection to culture, and establishing a permanent mechanism for First Nations Australians to advise Parliament and the Executive Government on how to effectively implement laws, policies, and programs that affect us.
Australia’s commitment to embed Indigenous perspectives also extends to how we engage globally. My appointment as Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People, and head of the Office of First Nations Engagement, is a practical demonstration of this. My role will work to embed First Nations perspectives and interests into Australia’s foreign policy. Developed through consultation with Australian First Nations people, communities and organisations, I will ensure our knowledge and expertise are represented in our international engagements.
My role will also help grow First Nations trade and investment, contribute to Australia’s efforts to progress First Nations rights in multilateral fora, and enhance Australia’s regional engagement by fostering cooperation on shared interests, including action on climate change.