Defining ‘Indigenous Peoples’
Caritas Australia acknowledges that there is no universally accepted definition of ‘Indigenous Peoples’: a reality that reflects the impossibility of homogenising a huge diversity of nations, communities, and groups, each in different social and political contexts, into one precise identifier. Nonetheless, a working construct is necessary if we are to stand with these peoples for recognition and promotion of their rights.
In line with the United Nations, Caritas Australia does not adopt a strict definition, but rather uses the term ‘Indigenous Peoples’ to refer to communities that share a number of common characteristics, such as:
- self-identification and acceptance at individual and community levels;
- historical continuity with pre-colonial societies;
- strong links to territories and natural resources; and
- distinct social, spiritual, political, legal or economic systems.
We also acknowledge the inadequacy of the term ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ in recognising the diversity of nations and clans across Australia; each linguistically, culturally and spiritually distinct. Again, an inclusive identifier is, at present, pragmatic for both Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians.