… what has been done cannot be undone. But what can now be done to remedy the deeds of yesterday must not be put off till tomorrow."Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to Alice Springs, 1986
2012 marks the 40th anniversary of Caritas Australia’s First Australians Program. Over the past four decades we have seen great advances in the recognition of the inherent human rights of our nation’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. And yet, even today, in one of the richest countries in the world, there continues to be a huge disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in many key measures of health and wellbeing, such as literacy, employment, impoverishment, diabetes and infant mortality rates.
Similar clusters of problems arise far too commonly in Indigenous Populations around the globe; indeed these issues appear to be systemic within many different Indigenous communities. In consultation with our partners, our work with Indigenous Peoples in Australia, Indonesia, Bolivia, the Philippines, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and other regions gives us a strong mandate to reflect on the current situation of the world’s Indigenous Peoples. Many of these partners' stories are captured our campaign report Walk As One: The Path to Justice; it is our lived experience of these that inspires us to preserve and maintain the richness of thought, community, culture and spirituality which is in many ways unique to Indigenous Peoples, and from which the rest of the world could clearly benefit.
We call on governments and organisations of all persuasion to implement policies that better serve Indigenous Peoples overseas and in Australia, who are currently struggling with the impacts of discrimination and institutional marginalisation.
Such policies would include:
- Increasing the effectiveness of Australia’s overseas aid program as it pertains to Indigenous Peoples, including greater support for measures which empower communities to develop their own priorities and strategies for development.
- Ensuring compliance with the United National Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratification of International Labour Organisation Convention 169 on the rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, including established mechanisms for the practical implementation and enforcement of these instruments in both international and domestic spheres.
- Initiation of constructive dialogue in the international arena, proactively encouraging positive policy change and prioritisation of Indigenous Peoples within diplomatic and commercial discourse.
While the richness of what Indigenous Peoples have to offer the world is clear, the challenge for us as local and global communities remains: will we listen and will we walk the path to justice together as one?