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United Nations experts welcome Australia’s apology to indigenous peoples


18 February 2008

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people; the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the rights to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued the following statement today:

We warmly welcome the speech delivered by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at the Federal Parliament on 13 February 2008, offering an apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples for the pain and indignity they have endured as a consequence of past laws and policies. We are specially moved by the apology offered to the members of the Stolen Generation and their families, victims of a deliberate policy of assimilation of the Aboriginal culture that contradicted the basic human rights principles of equality and dignity. We welcome the Australian Government’s commitment to build a common future with the indigenous peoples of the country based on mutual respect. Australia’s efforts to acknowledge historical injustices and to promote reconciliation set an example of how to enhance harmonious and cooperative relationships between indigenous peoples and States, in the spirit of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This apology will strengthen the moral fabric of the country and reinforce the Aboriginal contribution to Australian society.
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The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the rights to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have made official visits to Australia in recent years. The Government of Australia is encouraged to benefit from the analysis and recommendations of these mandate holders in taking forward practical measures to protect and promote the rights of Aboriginal peoples. The reports of special procedures can be found at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/chr/special/