August 9th marks an important day for Indigenous Australians and all of the world's Indigenous peoples. International Day of the World’s Indigenous People aims to raise awareness for some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in the world. Strengthening international cooperation to solve the key issues that Indigenous peoples face relating to culture, human rights, health, education, the environment with social and economic development being the key objectives. Through international collaboration and recognition, it is hoped that Indigenous peoples can move forward with a brighter future.
This year's theme celebrates Indigenous peoples resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The link between environmental degradation and pandemics is will known by many leading research organisations. Indigenous peoples too have been concerned about this threat even before COVID-19. This concern comes from their traditional knowledge and relationship with nature and land. Many Indigenous groups particularly communities in remote areas have been particularly susceptible to the pandemic. Throughout this time they have been seeking their own solutions such as voluntary isolation and the sealing of territories. This year we celebrate Indigenous peoples incredible strength in the face of this adversity.
UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples - Sourced from UN website
The date August 9th was chosen in recognition of the first meeting of the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Geneva in 1982. This significant day was announced in 1994 by the UN General Assembly. Another achievement on the UN’s part was the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was adopted in 2007. This declaration has the crucial role of outlining the standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples. The declaration expands on international human rights standards and applies them specifically to Indigenous peoples' rights and freedom.
Indigenous peoples make up the majority of the world’s cultural and language diversity. They represent 5000 different cultures and speak the majority of the world's 7000 languages. Indigenous populations are unique in that they have retained the cultural, spiritual, economic and political features of their culture that vastly differ from dominant societies. Connection to the environment and sustainable use of natural resources is a key commonality between these cultures. Over thousands of years, they have mastered how to manage their resources and live as one with their natural environment. There is so much that the world can learn from Indigenous peoples and practices. Indigenous peoples all over the world continue to seek recognition of their culture, rights to country and identities.
“Days like the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples are an important time to appreciate the progress made and how far Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have come given the devastating impacts that colonisation has had and continues to have on communities” – Linda Ford (AASW Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative)
Indigenous peoples have lived for over 60,000 years in Australia. Their culture and identities are embedded in this land, and like all Indigenous populations they have had to fight to keep their culture alive. It is due to the great strength and determination of First Nations people calling for justice that Australia is beginning to acknowledge and understand the devastating impact that racism, structural oppression and colonialism have had.This day holds great importance for Indigenous Australians because it signifies the world's dedication to real change. Today we celebrate these incredible cultures by recognising the important role they have within today's society.
Logo of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
based on artwork by Rebang Dewan of the Indigenous Chakma people