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Indigenous peoples

Indigenous peoples

Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is releasing this Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda to elevate indigenous issues in the work of the foreign affairs and trade portfolio. It is framed by the Australian Government’s commitment to work in partnership with Indigenous Australians. This policy is about reconciliation in Australia and supporting the rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. We commit to doing better globally as a portfolio just as we commit to doing better at home. This policy reflects a systematic approach to Australian diplomacy to bring to bear the full extent of Australia’s influence in the international system.

Our vision

We have 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. We will pursue four objectives to achieve this vision:

  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

DFAT will lead on the implementation and reporting of the Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda, on behalf of the foreign affairs and trade portfolio. Agencies in the foreign affairs and trade portfolio will continue to manage their own responsibilities under the policy. DFAT will coordinate closely with whole-of-government agencies on the implementation of this policy, to ensure consistency with their mandates on international indigenous issues.

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

Read the Indigenous Diplomacy Agenda

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

Office of the Pacific Indigenous Engagement Plan 2021-23

The Office of the Pacific was established in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to support Australia's deepening engagement with the Pacific. The rich and distinct culture of Indigenous Australia resonates deeply with Pacific Islander people. In sharing this culture with Pacific people through our diplomatic engagement, it is paramount that we are working collaboratively with Indigenous Australians, to portray an accurate and authentic representation. This Indigenous Engagement Plan aims to guide efforts by the Office of the Pacific to support deeper and more direct engagement between Indigenous Australians and Pacific Islander people, as well as to embed Indigenous perspectives in the strategic and diplomatic work of the Office of the Pacific.

Read the Office of the Pacific Indigenous Engagement Plan 2021-23

Reaching indigenous people in the Australian aid program: guidance note

Australia remains committed to inclusive development and assisting the most disadvantaged find pathways out of poverty. Recognising that indigenous peoples often experience disproportionate rates of poverty, and are at increased risk of exclusion and marginalisation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has prepared this guidance noted to assist staff to design and deliver international development programs that strive to:

  1. be inclusive of indigenous peoples' issues
  2. improve outcomes for indigenous peoples
  3. engage responsibly with risk and mitigate potential adverse on indigenous peoples.

This guidance note should be read in conjunction with DFAT's Indigenous Peoples Strategy, development policy and sectoral guidance notes.

Read the guidance note

Short Note: How to rate indigenous issues in aid quality checks

Aid Quality Checks (AQCs) are a management tool to assess DFAT's aid investments. Completing an AQC involves rating investment performance against six aid quality criteria using a six-point rating scale. Evidence to support AQC ratings is drawn from a variety of sources including: monitoring and evaluation frameworks, field visits, reviews, evaluations and reports from implementing partners. Information from AQCs is primarily used for investment management and decision- making. The AQC template includes two questions to assess how investments are addressing issues affecting indigenous people. The rating criteria seeks to uphold both Australia's, and our partner governments', international commitments to indigenous peoples.

  • The first question assesses whether indigenous peoples were actively involved across the programming cycle, with a focus on their involvement in consultations and decision-making processes.
  • The second question assesses whether the initiative is tailored to address the unique and specific interests of indigenous peoples that may differ from other beneficiaries to the initiative (for instance, does not assume a 'one size fits all approach').

Read the short note

Indigenous Procurement Policy

In line with the framework of DFAT's Indigenous Peoples Strategy, the Australian Government published in May 2015 the first Indigenous Procurement Policy, setting targets for engagement between government and Indigenous businesses.

For the first time, the Commonwealth Government has committed to a procurement target for goods and services from Indigenous businesses. The target is for three per cent of Commonwealth contracts to be awarded to Indigenous businesses by 2020. The Government is committed to ensuring that every government portfolio meets its target.

The policy will put Indigenous businesses at the front and centre of the way the Commonwealth Government does business. Whether through direct contracts, or as part of the supply chain of some of Australia's biggest companies, the policy will ensure that Indigenous businesses have the chance to compete and showcase the products they have to offer.

This policy is about creating opportunities for these Indigenous businesses to grow and employ more people. It is also about stimulating private investment in new Indigenous businesses.

A strong Indigenous business sector will help drive financial independence, and create wealth and opportunities for Indigenous Australians. It will also provide the basis for Indigenous economic development in regional and remote Australia.

Read the Indigenous Procurement Policy

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.

Read more about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

Australia regularly attends each session of the Permanent Forum and engages with states and Indigenous representatives on progressing issues of importance to indigenous peoples including Indigenous Australians.

United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Human Rights Council – Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP)

The Expert Mechanism has a unique position in the United Nations system, where it provides valuable knowledge and thematic advice to the Human Rights Council. The Expert Mechanism enables the development of in-depth studies that can assist indigenous groups and Members States.

Australia believes the sharing of experience, knowledge, expertise and best practice is invaluable in the ongoing effort to achieve better outcomes for indigenous peoples.

United Nations Human Rights Council – Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In 2001, the Commission on Human Rights decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, as part of the system of thematic Special Procedures.

Indigenous peoples across the world experience the consequences of historical colonization and invasion of their territories, and face discrimination because of their distinct cultures, identities and ways of life.

In recent decades, the international community has given special attention to the human rights situations of indigenous peoples, as shown by the adoption of international standards and guidelines, as well as by the establishment of institutions and bodies that specifically target these peoples' concerns. The rights of indigenous peoples are further promoted by international and regional human rights mechanisms. (See Indigenous Peoples)

The current Special Rapporteur is Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, of the Philippines (2014-).

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

The first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was held on 22-23 September 2014. Australia's Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, attended the conference. The meeting was an opportunity to share perspectives and best practices on the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples, including pursuing the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Australia continues to confirm its on-going support for the World Conference on Indigenous People, to improve the well-being of Indigenous peoples. Australia actively engaged in the World Conference on Indigenous Issues in September 2014. Australia supports the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and welcomes the continued, full and effective participation by all indigenous peoples in achieving the ends of the Declaration which, while not legally-binding, helps inform the direction of policy, programs and legislation. We continue to engage in discussions around strengthening our policy position to support the Human Rights Council's consideration of the most effective approach to monitor, evaluate and improve the achievement of the ends of the Declaration.

United Nations: World Conference on Indigenous Peoples

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 new regional initiative to strengthen the economic empowerment of Indigenous peoples in our region and beyond.

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 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.

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.

This Arrangement 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.

A joint decision-making body, the Partnership Council, will enable both economy representatives and Indigenous Peoples to implement and oversee the Arrangement. The IPETCA Partnership Council will develop a work programme to determine, organise, and facilitate the activities under IPETCA.

IPETCA will be 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.

Further information about the Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement is available on the NIAA website.


Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA) [DOCX 51 KB]

Indigenous Peoples Economic and Trade Cooperation Arrangement (IPETCA) [PDF 223 KB]

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