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Senator Thorpe calls on UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be legislated

Following the handing down of the final report of the Inquiry into the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Senator Thorpe calls on the Declaration to be legislated

In March 2022, Senator Thorpe moved to establish an inquiry into the application of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The inquiry lapsed at the end of the 46th parliament and was re-established in an altered form by the government in August last year.

Today, the committee handed down its final report, to which Senator Thorpe provided extensive additional comments. Both the report and additional comments can be accessed on the committee website.

Senator Thorpe outlines in detail a set of additional recommendations to the report, which are included below for reference. The first and foremost of these is ensuring UNDRIP’s implementation is progressed through enshrining it in domestic law, something the government has shied away from recommending, despite almost overwhelming support for this approach by witnesses to the inquiry.

Senator Thorpe’s Private Members Bill, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, introduced in March 2022, aims to do exactly this and mirrors recent successful implementation of similar legislation in Canada. The Bill would require the  Commonwealth Government to “take measures to ensure consistency between Commonwealth law and the Declaration” and “prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration” and that the Prime Minister must, each financial year “present a report to each House of the Parliament on the progress of those actions.”


These quotes are attributable to Senator Lidia Thorpe, Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman and Independent Victorian Senator representing the Blak Sovereign Movement:

“The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets the minimum standard of human rights for our people. Without respecting the bare minimum of our rights, the colonial state will continue to pursue its own dominance, resulting in the displacement, dispossession and death of our people. Without the UNDRIP, there is no way to justice for the First Peoples of this country.”

“The committee recommendation for the development of a National Action Plan to implement the UNDRIP in Australia, while very welcome, does not go far enough, as international experience has shown. Unless we legislate the implementation of UNDRIP there is no guarantee governments will prioritise and pursue it. We need to be able to hold this and future governments accountable.”

“Australia was one of only 4 countries to actually oppose the UNDRIP when it was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. Australia is failing in so many ways to comply with the principles and rights outlined in the Declaration.”

“The lack of action to progress UNDRIP’s implementation by successive governments clearly shows a lack of commitment to the Declaration and our rights as First Peoples.”

“The government’s handling of the Restoring our Rivers Bill on water management in the Murray Darling Basin is a case in point on how the rights and principles outlined in the UNDRIP continue to be ignored. Basin First Nations were not sufficiently consulted on the government’s plans, and their water rights are still an afterthought if anything. When will the government finally understand that First Nations justice and environmental and climate justice are inseparably linked?”

“Next week, my Private Senators’ Bill to implement the UNDRIP in Australia is up for debate. The Bill doesn’t ask much of the government but simply requires it to analyse consistency between Commonwealth law and the Declaration, to prepare and implement an Action Plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration and to report on it each year.”

“In the inquiry process, over a 15 month period, there has been overwhelming international and national support to implement the UNDRIP through making it law. We heard many arguments on why this is the best approach, including lessons from international experience. The committee, which is government controlled, has chosen to ignore this and not proceed with a recommendation on one of the strongest pieces of evidence provided during the inquiry.”

“The implementation of the UNDRIP is complemented by the pursuit of Truth-telling and Treaty and I thank the committee for its stated support for these. I urge the government to honour its commitment to Truth and Treaty and progress them in this term of government. Our people have waited long enough.”

“The committee recommends that the Joint Standing Committee on Human Rights be able to include compliance with the principles of UNDRIP in their scrutiny of legislation process. This is something I have also long pursued and argued for. I will therefore tomorrow introduce a Private Senator’s Bill to amend the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 to include the consideration of UNDRIP, to immediately progress this recommendation.”

“Given that the UNDRIP embodies many human rights principles already protected under international customary and treaty law, and sets the minimum standard of human rights for First Peoples and State Parties’ interactions with their First Peoples, implementing the UNDRIP should be of no concern to any human rights respecting government.”

“Implementing the UNDRIP in Australia, and thereby respecting and progressing our rights as First Peoples of this country, should be the obvious next step in pursuing First Nations justice after the failed referendum. The government’s vote on my Bill will be a clear indicator of how committed it really is to our people, or if a powerless advisory body was as much as it was willing to give us."

“Today, the Labor Caucus decided to not support my Bill to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia. This is Labor showing its true colours: Labor does not care about First Peoples’ rights. Labor does not care about justice for our people. Labor does not even support progressing the bare minimum of rights for First Peoples in this country.”



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