NACCHO Aboriginal Health #IYIL2019 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Minister @KenWyattMP Speech Geneva : To us the Declaration reflects economic, social, cultural and political rights that should guide our policies intended to deliver change

 

” Kaya wangju – hello and welcome in my language, the Noongar language.

To celebrate the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages, I commenced in the language of my ancestors. I am Ken Wyatt, Australia’s first Indigenous member of the Australian cabinet and Minister for Indigenous Australians.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to address the Human Rights Council in this session.

There is power in telling the truth.

In Australia, we are starting a national conversation about truth telling around the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

To me, truth-telling is not a contest of history, but an acknowledgement of what has been, and sharing what was seen.

So let me start here by talking truth with you.” 

Minister Ken Wyatt’s Dignitary address to the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council 18 September : Read full speech part 1 below

“ Language is more than a mere tool for communicating with other people. People simply don’t speak words. We connect, teach and exchange ideals. Indigenous languages allows each of us to express our unique perspective on the world we live in and with the people in which we share it with.

Unique words and expressions within language, even absence of, or taboos on certain words, provide invaluable insight to the culture and values each of us speaks.

Our Language empowers us.

It is a fundamental right to speak your own language, and to use it to express your identity, your culture and your history. For Indigenous people it lets us communicate our philosophies and our rights as they are within us, our choices and have been for our people for milleniums “

Minister Ken Wyatt sharing Australia’s story on preserving and revitalising #IndigenousLanguages at @UNHumanRights Council yesterday @IYIL2019

Part 1

It’s been 10 years since Australia joined the global community to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The truth is… Australia did not support the Declaration when it was first introduced. Over two years we considered the implications, and like other countries, we are still on the journey of what the Declaration means to us.

To us the Declaration reflects economic, social, cultural and political rights. Rights that should guide our policies intended to deliver change that is sustainable and embraces Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their culture.

Although we have already started walking our journey to change the way we protect and uphold the rights of Indigenous people, we know healing won’t actually start until we recognise and acknowledge where our country began. To this end we have set ourselves a goal to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first peoples of Australia.

This is too important to rush, and too important to get wrong.

As everyone here would know, the declaration itself was the product of almost 25 years of deliberation between UN member states and the Indigenous groups.

To achieve our goal we must focus on rediscovering our differences, our incredible history and culture, and integrating traditional knowledge and systems in our current way of life.

We acknowledge that our long struggle to recognise and realise traditional Indigenous systems has been made more difficult by the truth that we have interpreted that connection long ago.

This is a terrible and hard fact to face. We cannot change it. But we are trying hard to heal and to reconnect.

To achieve our goals it’s vital we have unity in our solution. This demands all voices should be heard respectfully. It requires us to solve the problem together … to ‘co-design’.

Soon we will be talking to our elders and communities about what co-design looks like.

The truth is we have problems and some are serious problems. High rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and high rates of suicide, particularly of young Indigenous Australians are just two of these problems.

But … we are working to change the statistics.

Australians pride themselves on being honest, hard-working and loyal people. We know we must all contribute to enjoy better outcomes for all of us.

All of Australia’s governments have partnered to work with Indigenous people and communities to develop solutions to our problems jointly.

Our Closing the Gap framework, focuses on community safety, education and employment as enablers for better futures. By addressing the underlying issues we hope to reduce the unacceptably high rates of suicide and incarceration.

Economic rights are also at the heart of our strategies. Our strategies covering demand and supply are designed to cultivate growth and sustainability.

We are offering targeted funding support and levering our own government spending to drive demand for Indigenous goods and services, and consequently drive business growth and create jobs.

For example, the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy commenced four years ago. In this time over 16,280 contracts, worth more than $2.47 billion, have been awarded to 1,780 Indigenous businesses across a variety of industries and sectors.

On the supply side we’re nurturing the Indigenous corporate sector through a 10-year plan to improve access to business and financial support.

We also recognise the additional struggles Indigenous women can face in setting up businesses. To address this we have provided culturally-safe spaces for women to seek business support and we’ve funded the first Indigenous Women in Business conference.

Economic participation is just one element of the declaration.

Australia’s truth is that while our Indigenous culture and systems are one of the most ancient, sophisticated and complex in the world, they are also evolving, blending our Australian nations together in a peaceful but challenging journey. Similar to our journey towards realising the Declaration.

There is no doubt we are a nation with a lot of challenges to address and we anticipate new ones as globalisation shifts us further into the new community paradigms. We are headed in the right direction … but we are cautious not to run before we have first learned to walk.

We are on that journey and walking together.

We embrace the opportunity to be part of this global community here and we hope you will walk with us to achieve long and lasting change for the better for both Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians but the First Nations of the World.

Thank you Mr President.

Part 2 Panel discussion on Indigenous languages

In West Australian Noongar language, I say kaya wangju – hello and welcome.

Australia welcomes the International Year of Indigenous Languages and the focus this past year has brought to the importance of Indigenous languages.

Those present at this session today would be aware of the statistics about Indigenous languages:

  • 96 per cent of the world’s 6,700 languages are spoken by only three per cent of the world’s population.
  • Indigenous people comprise less than six per cent of the global population, but speak more than 4,000 of the world’s languages.

Language is more than a mere tool for communicating with other people. People simply don’t speak words. We connect, teach and exchange ideals. Indigenous languages allows each of us to express our unique perspective on the world we live in and with the people in which we share it with.

Unique words and expressions within language, even absence of, or taboos on certain words, provide invaluable insight to the culture and values each of us speaks.

Our Language empowers us.

It is a fundamental right to speak your own language, and to use it to express your identity, your culture and your history. For Indigenous people it lets us communicate our philosophies and our rights as they are within us, our choices and have been for our people for milleniums.

It is in the everyday lives of people who are speaking their own language that a difference can be felt.

In Australia, we are investing in maintaining the knowledge of languages being spoken today, and preserving this resource for younger people, as one way for future generations to connect with their identity, culture and heritage.

We have around 250 original Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Sadly only about half of these are still spoken today. Even more upsetting is that of these, only 13 are considered strong. This places Australia as one of the world’s most top five hot spots for endangered languages.

To address this we are partnering with Indigenous Australians to revitalise languages that are in danger.

We recognise that cultural authority, community control and engagement are paramount to preserving and revitalising Australia’s first languages. This is why the Australian Government insists that it’s first people, our Indigenous voices, that are heard when we develop policies, programs and services around Indigenous languages.

To support this work we are undertaking a comprehensive survey to inform us on the current state of proficiency and frequency and use of languages.

We are also keeping language alive, vibrant and accessible.

Australia has over 20 Indigenous community-led language and arts centres. These centres contribute to strong cultural identities, and community-driven wellbeing activities.

At the national level we are using modern technology streaming platforms to provide a range of content in language — from children’s stories and cartoons to oral histories and news articles.

IndigiTUBE, which has received Commonwealth funding, is such a platform. It is becoming a repository for this content as well as music videos, documentaries and comedy routines.

We encourage Indigenous community radio stations around the country to share the content, and all Australians to access it at home or through the web. Imperatives of incorporating language into government services is a priority.

As we say in Noongar:

“Ngyung moort ngarla moort, ngyung boodja ngarla boodja”

My people our people, my country our country.

At all levels, on all platforms we should be making our languages heard and kept. While we acknowledge that much has been lost, it is not too late to preserve and use Indigenous language – which I hope is the outcome of the International Year.

 

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