United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Non-discrimination and equality

Relevant Articles:

Life and security: looks at the rights to ensure Indigenous peoples are free and safe to enjoy individually and collectively. (Article 7, 8, 9, 10)

Education, information and employment rights: outlines how the realisation of these rights is empowering.(Article 14, 15, 16)

Indigenous peoples and individuals are entitled to the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms recognised in international law, and also the right to be free from discrimination in exercising these rights.

We have the right to be free and to live free from control.
We as individuals are equal to all other individuals.
We in our groups are equal to all other groups of peoples.
Any discrimination is wrong.

Governments must take effective measures to protect our right to non-discrimination and equality. The Declaration recognises that while Indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, we also have the right to be different and to be respected in our difference.

In any area of life, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must not be discriminated against.

The only instance that differential treatment is acceptable is when it undertaken to attempt to secure substantive equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Substantive equality does not necessarily dictate that every person or group of people should be treated exactly the same. Sometimes, to achieve equality of outcomes and opportunities, policies or laws need to take into account the particular circumstances of disadvantage which need to be addressed for true equality to be achieved. This includes consideration of the ongoing effects of colonisation, dispossession and historic discrimination, as well as acknowledging and addressing the systematic discrimination and racism is still experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

Know your rights – Equality

International law accepts the idea of substantive equality.  This means that equality is not blind to people’s differences. All people are not the same and these differences should be recognised and responded to. It means the focus is on the equality of outcomes.

Ensuring the right to non-discrimination is protected involves addressing both direct discrimination and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination occurs when people are treated differently, to their disadvantage, because they are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a rule or policy that is the same for everyone but has an unfair effect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indirect discrimination is also known as systemic or institutionalized discrimination and can be harder to detect and address.

In applying the principles of non-discrimination and equality, governments must be committed to removing existing structural and systemic impediments to healthy relationships within our communities and reinforcing protections against race discrimination. Governments can do this by actively involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at all stages of the design, development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programs and legislation.