Commonwealth Day: 'utter' and 'shameful' failure for Indigenous peoples

March 5, 2009

Aboriginal boy in northern Queensland, Australia. © John Miles/Survival

This page was created in 2009 and may contain language which is now outdated.

Only four members of the UN voted against the Declaration on Indigenous Rights in 2007: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Three are members of the Commonwealth.

Of the 53 countries which now make up the Commonwealth, only two of the smallest (Dominica and Fiji) have ratified the 1989 international law recognising Indigenous and tribal peoples' rights.

The UK refuses to recognise this law, claiming it is because there are no Indigenous peoples there, but that has not stopped countries such as the Netherlands from signing. One hundred and fifty-eight members of parliament have rejected the UK government's argument and asked it to sign the law, all to no avail.

Stephen Corry said today, 'The Commonwealth was partly built on the dispossession of Indigenous peoples. It's time for it to catch up with the rest of the world which is finally recognising their rights. For a family of nations which claims to put human rights at the top of its agenda, it is failing, utterly and shamefully.'