Friday, August 9, was International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples! It is a day to celebrate the diversity of indigenous cultures around the world, and to provide education and awareness of the problems faced by indigenous peoples in areas such as human rights, the environment, development, education, health, economic and social development.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous peoples in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of its poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.
Aboriginal Australians are the oldest surviving cultures on the planet. They have lived in this land and practiced their cultures for between 65,000 and 120,000 years. When the first British settlers arrived in Australia, there were between 300,000 and 950,000 Aboriginal peoples living here.
Today, there is a huge divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in relation to health, education, financial stability and quality of life. Out of all Australians born in 2015-2017, the life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is estimated to be 8.6 years lower than that of the non-Indigenous population for males, and 7.8 years lower for females.
Although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up about 3% of the total Australian population, they constitute 27% of the national prison population.
Indigenous Australians experience widespread socioeconomic disadvantage and health inequality. Factors like discrimination and racism, violence, alcohol and drug use and high psychological distress can negatively affect social and emotional wellbeing. Poor social and emotional wellbeing, in turn, can have negative impacts on employment, income, living conditions and opportunities.
Australia needs to do more for its Indigenous population. Did you know that we are the only Commonwealth nation that doesn’t have a treaty with its Indigenous peoples?
There is much to be celebrated about Indigenous Australian cultures. From the 65,000+ years of continuing civilisation to the 275 unique Indigenous languages. From the building of the first ever man-made structures to the cultural principles of environmentalism and sustainability.
Let us move forward together and promote unity and healing. Let us recognise the First Australians in our constitution. Let us create a treaty that acknowledges Indigenous Australians’ history and sovereignty, acknowledges the occupation and dispossession of their land by European settlers.