UN Human Rights Day

Professor Colleen Hayward at UN talk.

Went to the United Nations (WA branch) Human Rights Day recently and the guest speaker was Professor Colleen Hayward* on “The UN and Indigenous Peoples – Our Rights and Getting the Wrongs of the Past Righted’’.

Professor Hayward is a senior Aboriginal woman of the Noongar nation in the south-west of Western Australia and is Head of Centre of Kurongkurl Katitjin at Edith Cowan University.

She said the UN’s ideas on rights for all indigenous people are relevant to and could be used by Aboriginal people here as leverage to gain more recognition for past wrongs and getting those fixed.

Hayward said her personal experience — as the child of tertiary-educated parents (a white mother and an Aboriginal father) — involved being regularly questioned by welfare officers who visited the home. They would take the children aside separately and ask how they were going. She said they hadn’t realised then the huge importance of their answers and how they might have been taken away if they’d said anything that didn’t fit in with what the officers wanted to hear.

There were a few interesting questions from the audience – one bloke said everyone should learn Esperanto (not really related to the talk, just his “cause”) and another said all Aborigines should learn English. Prof Hayward said she thinks Aboriginal children should be multi-lingual and that English is the “language of power” here so it is recommended.

Afterwards, a raffle was drawn where nearly everyone won a prize, and we had snacks outside and pleasant chit chat. Parking for a couple of hours in the heart of Perth at night is only $5!

*For more than 30 years, she has provided input on behalf of minority groups to policies and programs on a wide range of issues at state and national levels. She was given the 2008 National NAIDOC Aboriginal Person of the Year Award and was inducted into the WA Department of Education and Training’s Hall of Fame for Achievement in Aboriginal Education.

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