Skip to main content

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples

First Nations approach to foreign policy

In September 2022 the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Australians and Senator Dodson called for expressions of interest for an Ambassador for First Nations People to lead the government's efforts in embedding Indigenous perspectives, experiences and interests across the department.

On 7 March 2023, the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Indigenous Australians and Senator Dodson announced Mr Justin Mohamed as Australia's inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People. The Ambassador's role will build on the Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda through working in genuine partnership with First Nations communities, leaders and advocates on how Australia's international engagement across foreign, trade, development and corporate policy can better support First Nations peoples.

The Ambassador will head an Office of First Nations engagement within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and work in partnership with government agencies and departments, especially working closely with the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). DFAT will empower the next generation of First Nations Australian diplomats to prosecute Australia's national interest. We will work with domestic agencies to support Indigenous Australian leaders to engage in the international system and lead on the policies and issues that impact their lives.

Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda

In 2021, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) launched the Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda to elevate Indigenous issues in our foreign policy.

The Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda reflects the Australian Government's commitment to work in partnership with Indigenous Australians and reflects a vision for a world where the rights and traditions of Indigenous people are respected, where open markets facilitate the free flow of trade, capital and ideas for Indigenous businesses, and where Indigenous peoples are participants and beneficiaries of the international system.

The Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda has four objectives:

  1. Shape international norms and standards to benefit Indigenous Peoples
  2. Maximise opportunities for Indigenous Peoples in a globalised world
  3. Promote sustainable development for all Indigenous Peoples
  4. Deploy Indigenous Australian diplomats to advance Australia's national interests

The Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda  replaced the expired DFAT Indigenous Peoples Strategy 2015-2019

Read the Speech by Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs: The Contribution of Indigenous Australia to our Diplomacy

New Development Policy

The new International Development Policy presents a transformative opportunity to integrate the unique perspectives and rich experiences of First Nations Australians into the core of development practices and policies. This aligns with the Australian Government's broader commitment to a foreign policy that represents the diverse interests of First Nations Australians and projects a full and shared Australian identity internationally. The enduring connections between First Nations Australians, built on a foundation of shared values, histories, geographies, and familial bonds, are invaluable in this context. Recognising the depth of these ties, the Office of First Nations Engagement, led by the dedicated Ambassador for First Nations People, Mr. Justin Mohamed, plays a strategic role. The Office is at the forefront of supporting First Nations' active participation in international dialogues, fostering vital connections across the Indo-Pacific region, and advocating for the advancement of Indigenous rights on a global scale. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is dedicated to nurturing genuine relationships between First Nations Australians and our regional allies, ensuring that the invaluable insights of First Nations communities contribute to an inclusive approach to development.

Australia's International Engagement

Australia has consistently demonstrated commitment and active engagement on Indigenous issues on the international stage.

We continue to actively participate in United Nations' forums, including attendance at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous peoples (EMRIP).

Australia continues to work with the Human Rights Council to address human rights violations, including those affecting Indigenous peoples, and to work closely with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to advance the rights and concerns of Indigenous peoples, including Indigenous Australians.

Australia not only works with States to advance the interests of Indigenous peoples but also engages in consultations with NGOs and civil society.

Australia contributes to questionnaires from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This work is a collaborative effort to bring about improvements, to increase understanding and the sharing of experience and knowledge, and ultimately setting global norms by which to solve complex problems.

Australia continues to work toward achieving the ends of The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We have been commended for our continued contribution to the Voluntary Fund which enables Indigenous representatives to attend UN sessions and have their voices heard.

Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement - a regional initiative

Australia is a founding participant of the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA), a regional initiative to strengthen the economic empowerment of Indigenous peoples in our region and beyond. IPETCA is a non-binding cooperation-based arrangement initiated by New Zealand during its 2021 APEC host year. While not an APEC initiative, it was discussed with interested economies such as Australia in the margins of APEC meetings.

Our region is home to more than 270 million Indigenous peoples who have a long and rich history of participating in trade and commerce. Indigenous peoples play an integral role in the societies and economies of our region, and this Arrangement will focus on further unlocking their economic potential and increasing trade and investment opportunities. IPETCA acknowledges the importance of enhancing the ability of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous businesses to benefit from the opportunities created by international trade and investment. IPETCA reaffirms a number of important existing Indigenous-specific international instruments, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and acknowledges the important role of the environment in the economic, social and cultural well-being of Indigenous peoples.

IPETCA will help to expand business networks for Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs across the region, including for Micro- Small- and Medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), Indigenous women and Indigenous youth. Prospective areas of cooperation under the Arrangement include enhancing digital skills and e-commerce opportunities; export counselling; promoting access to finance; supporting Indigenous public procurement mechanisms; and valuing and protecting Indigenous Knowledge.

The IPECTA Partnership Council, a joint decision-making body, will enable both government and Indigenous representatives to implement and oversee the Arrangement. The IPETCA Partnership Council held its first meeting in November 2023 and is responsible for determininge, organisinge, and facilitating activities under IPETCA.

IPETCA is supported by the National Indigenous Australians Agency in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Australia's participation in this Arrangement aligns with our Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda to maximise opportunities for Indigenous Australians in a globalised world.


Back to top