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Indigenous peoples

Office for First Nations International Engagement/Ambassador for First Nations People

Mr Justin Mohamed was announced as Australia's inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People by the Foreign Minister, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, the Minister for Indigenous Australians, The Hon Linda Burney MP, and Senator Patrick Dodson on 7 March 2023. Mr Mohamed commenced in the role on 3 April 2023 ensuring, for the first time, that Australia has dedicated First Nations representation in our international engagement.

Mr Mohamed brings a strong connection to community to the role, having worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, social justice and reconciliation over decades. He has been extensively involved in the First Nations community-controlled sector, as well as working in government and the corporate sector.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has established the Office for First Nations International Engagement. Led by the Ambassador for First Nations People, the Office is working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop and implement a First Nations approach to foreign policy, including trade and investment, as well as development.

The Australian Government has provided $13.6 million over four years from 2023-24 to continue and expand efforts to boost First Nations trade and investment and enhance collaboration between First Nations communities and partners across the Indo-Pacific. The Office will identify new areas of cooperation between First Nations communities and our international partners – including in intellectual property and exports, climate change, human rights, tourism and development.

On trade and investment, the Office will work closely with DFAT’s First Nations Trade Unit, Austrade and other government agencies to embed First Nations perspectives and interests across the Government’s trade and investment activities. This work will be supported by a pilot First Nations Trade and Investment Advisory Group which will be established in 2024. In addition, a First Nations Visitor Economy Partnership will be co-designed, which Austrade will lead.

The Ambassador for First Nations People's responsibilities include:

1. Embed First Nations perspectives into Australia's foreign policy

  • Provide strategic guidance on the development and implementation of a First Nations approach to foreign policy.
  • Design and establish a process to systematically engage and consult First Nations communities, advocates and leaders to bring Indigenous perspectives into Australian diplomacy, and advise on how Australia's international engagement can best support and maximise opportunities for First Nation Australians in a globalised world.

2. Enhance Australia's engagement in the Indo-Pacific Region

  • Draw on First Nations experiences and contemporary ties – particularly with the Pacific – to strengthen connections between First Nations peoples and communities of the region and engage regional partners on the Voice, Treaty, Truth process.
  • Help foster cooperation between First Nations Australians and regional partners based on the unique experiences and knowledge of First Nations people in order to address shared challenges such as health security, environmental management and climate change, and gender equality, including through the aid program.

3. Progress First Nations' rights and interests globally

  • Establish international First Nations dialogues on Voice, Treaty and Truth with likeminded countries to share experiences and knowledge of reconciliation processes and other First Nations issues, starting with New Zealand and Canada.
  • Lead Australia's engagement on Indigenous issues in international fora, including in human rights, and specialised Indigenous bodies at the UN, to promote, protect, and progress the rights and interests of indigenous peoples around the world.
  • Actively communicate domestic lessons and best practices on First Nations issues (particularly throughout the Pacific Region) and deepen cooperation with New Zealand, Canada, and other likeminded partners within multilateral and regional fora.
  • Work with First Nations communities to identify and repatriate human remains and sacred objects located around the world.

4. Support First Nations Trade and Investment

  • Support work to incorporate First Nations' business and exporter interests into our trade negotiations, international agreements and engagements and export growth strategies and activities.
  • Promote the excellence, ideas and unique offerings of First Nation Australian businesses.
  • Advise DFAT and portfolio partners on pathways to help grow First Nations' trade and investment.

5. Bolster Australia's First Nations diplomatic capability and advocacy

  • Assist DFAT and the portfolio to embed Australian First Nations' perspectives and experiences in all facets of its work, including by providing high-level advice on building DFAT's capability to do so, working closely with DFAT's Indigenous Champion, and Indigenous Employees Network, as well as the Diplomatic Academy.
  • Work with Australia's thematic Ambassadors, especially the Ambassador for Human Rights, Gender Equality, and Climate Change, to champion First Nations approaches as part of their international advocacy.
  • Support DFAT's diplomatic network to project modern Australia and First Nations voices to the region and the world, including through DFAT's strategic communications.
  • Work with Department to advise and support DFAT's Indigenous human resources capability and processes, including recruitment, retention and mentoring of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff.
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