International Day of the Word’s Indigenous Peoples

On the 9 August to celebrate International Day of the Word’s Indigenous Peoples, UNIC Canberra,  the Slovenian Embassy to Australia and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade partnered in an event “On the Right to have Rights”

To start proceedings Mr Wally Bell, Ngunawal Elder warmly welcomed all to country.

The moderator for the evening was  distinguished First Nations Elder, Professor Tom Calma AO, who then asked the Director of UNIC Canberra Chris Woodthorpe to say afew words.

Before delivering the UN Secretary-General’s message for the day Mr Woodthorpe noted that 2019 will be the International Year for Indigenous Languages and hoped that there would be further support for another successful partnership.

Following this short presentations were delivered by four distinguished panel members-  the first of which was Dr Sarah Holcombe, ANU Visiting Fellow who spoke about the rights for Indigenous People – “the right to have rights” and the challenges and constraints to their uptake in Australia.

Next, Professor Jan Simpson, Chair of Indigenous Linguistics at the ANU gave an overview of language ecologies and language rights in Australia, stating that language rights needed to be fully supported.

Then, Professor Tom Calma added  ‘that to be secure in language resulted in a secure community’ – before introducing Mr Bhiamie Eckford- Williamson who spoke passionately about governance and Indigenous populations and the rights inherent for Indigenous peoples to express themselves from within their own culture.

Wrapping up the event, Dr. Gaynor MacDonald from the University of Sydney, gave an impassioned closing to the event, calling out the historic treatment of indigenous peoples and arguing the need for the country to address the status quo.  In doing this she point out how work such as Dr Holcombe’s study of the Anangu of Central Australia and how universal human rights are understood, practiced, negotiated, and challenged in concert and in conflict with Indigenous rights was vital to any path forward.