Exclusive: Indigenous youth delegates address UN, urge Australian government to embrace Declaration on First Nations rights

Article by Giovanni Torre for the National Indigenous Times.

Policy Officer & Youth Delegate Chelsie Collard, CEO Jamie Lowe, Executive Officer/Graphic Designer & Youth Delegate Emily Robinson, Senior Governance Officer & Youth Delegate Jasmine Yarran, and Director of Native Title Clinton Benjamin. Image: NNTC.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth delegates from the National Native Title Council addressed the twenty-third session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues overnight.

The Forum session is being held on the lands of the Lenape people (New York). The youth delegates spoke early on Wednesday, local time.

The right to self-determination – First Nations peoples’ rights to speak for and manage their own Country, govern their own communities, participate fully in decision-making and to self-determine their own social, cultural and economic futures is key to the theme of this year’s Permanent Forum (UNPFII).

The NNTC delegation includes representation from Bardi-Jawi Niimidiman Aboriginal Corporation, Nyamba Buru Yawuru, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, Gur A Baradharaw Kod Torres Strait Sea and Land Council Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Corporation (GBK), First Nations Legal and Research Services, as well as delegates from Noongar (Ballardong and Whadjuk), Djiru and Gunaikurnai Country.

Elias Jarvis (Eastern Maar) spoke at the Forum on behalf of the NNTC delegation.

The NNTC noted that discussions around this year’s theme are highly relevant to Australian First Nations people, as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is yet to be implemented in a way that upholds the right to self-determination in Australian legislation and regulatory systems.

The delegation also delivered a written intervention to the UN Forum which contained key messages from each of the delegates and called on the Australian government to ensure secure and ongoing funding direct to Traditional Owner Representative Institutions, and to adopt national legislation to incorporate Declaration (UNDRIP) in a process that is led by First Nations peoples.

The UNDRIP recognises the need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples which derive from their political, economic and social structures and from their cultures, spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, especially First Nations rights to their lands, territories and resources.

The NNTC delegation used the forum “to collectively encourage the Australian government to adopt the national legislation in that it incorporates UNDRIP into its policy making frameworks”.

Elias Jarvis addresses the twenty-third session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Image: NNTC.

National Native Title Council chief executive Jamie Lowe said: “Empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to contribute to global forums recognises the cultural value of First Nations youth and is an important aspect of nation building.”

“Contributing to the UNPFII provides valuable opportunities for the next generation of First Nations leaders to enhance their capacity and confidence,” he said.

“It enables them to identify and address issues impacting their communities on a broader scale, share innovative solutions, and establish meaningful networks.”

The current UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues session began on April 15 and concludes April 26. The NNTC delegation will depart on April 19 to return home.

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