Focus Topics

topic 2 | Activity 6: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2007. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and wellbeing of the Indigenous peoples of the world. It is particularly significant because Indigenous peoples, including Australian Indigenous peoples, were involved in its drafting.1

UNDRIP sets out general principles and recognises rights to:

  • Nationality, self-determination, equality and freedom from adverse discrimination
  • Culture, spirituality, education and language
  • Land and resources
  • Participatory rights in development and other economic and social rights.

Note: A focus on key frameworks such as UNDRIP and its connection to palliative care, is an important part of a rights-based approach to learning. These links will become clearer as you progress through this section.

Key Video Resource – UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (10:27)

This video provides an overview of the importance and impact of UNDRIP for Australian Indigenous peoples.1

Check the thinking points below for some questions to consider with regard to this video.


The right to self-determination

UNDRIP outlines the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine political status and can freely pursue their own social, cultural and economic development. Self-determination is a right of peoples rather than individuals, and instead of being about creating a separate Indigenous ‘state’, it is an ongoing process to ensure that Indigenous communities are able to meet their own needs.1

The right to self-determination is based on the acknowledgement that Indigenous peoples are Australia’s first people, as was recognised by law in the historic Mabo judgement. The loss of this right to live according to a common set of values and beliefs, and to have that right respected by others, is at the heart of the current disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians. Australian Human Rights Commission2

Colonisation, which eroded and eventually removed self-determination for the ‘colonised’, is a fundamental determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health across the world. Indigenous people make up an estimated 6% of the world’s population and across the globe have disproportionately high rates of poverty, noncommunicable diseases, infant and maternal mortality, mental illness, and infectious diseases. There is also a life-expectancy gap of up to 20 years.3

  1. Watch the video resource ‘UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples’ developed by the Australian Human Rights Commission. As you watch this video, write down what you learn about the meaning of this historic document to Australian Indigenous peoples.
  2. Consider how the term ‘self-determination’ can be relevant at an individual level. How would you facilitate the right to self-determination for an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person affected by a life-limiting illness?
  1. Australian Human Rights Commission. UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 2021; Available from:
  2. Australian Human Rights Commission. Right to self determination. 2021; Available from:
  3. Editorial, Self-determination and Indigenous health. The Lancet, 2020. 396(10248): p. 361.