Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

illustration cover hands
Cover of the Declaration

After finishing the illustrated book of the Declaration of Human Rights, I wondered if I could help to bring attention to a UN document which at the time was hardly known or talked about among Australians. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been adopted by the UN General Assembly a year earlier, and Australia was one of only four member States worldwide to oppose it.
This Declaration describes human rights applied to the particular situation of indigenous populations around the world. Many indigenous people, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia, are struggling for land rights, the right to self-determination and the right to be treated as equal citizens.

Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781741758450 (out of print)

illustration man crwoning himself
The right to self-determination
illustration snake with brush
The right to practise culture and customs
illustration man speaking
Revitalising and transmitting oral traditions
illustration TV set
The right to establish indigenous media
illustration watering flower in pot
The right to improvement of social and economic conditions
illustration heads
Addressing the special needs of the old, women and children
illustration bandaged arm
The right to traditional and societal health care
illustration nature under glass dome
The right to protection of their environment
illustration man and excavator
Having a say in the development of traditional lands
illustration schoolf of fish
The right to determine one’s identity within society

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was proclaimed after over 20 years of negotiations between UN member states and indigenous peoples. It is seen as a landmark document recognising indigenous rights and freedoms, among them self-determination, ownership and use of lands and natural resources, as well as maintaining and developing indigenous political, religious, cultural and educational institutions. It also establishes the right to protection from genocide and to compensation for rights violations.

I am not of indigenous descent myself, and I tried to tread very carefully while dealing with this subject. I kept my approach international, alluding in my illustrations to indigenous traditions all over the world. At the same time, I did not directly reference any indigenous art, and checked about the book with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art department at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney before publication, who kindly made sure I did not unwittingly include illustrations that may be perceived as offensive. Ideally, an Indigenous artist should have illustrated this book, but I felt that I could make a difference and show solidarity by creating this book as a follow-up to my illustrated Declaration of Human Rights.