From Words to Action: Advancing Indigenous Rights Through Legislation with Mick Gooda



Get to know Indigenous Rights advocate, Mick Gooda, ahead of his plenary session on UNDRIP at He​​aling Our Spirit Worldwide.​​​​

​Mick Gooda's people are the Ghungalu from the Dawson Valley in Central Queensland. He has spent the last 30+ years advocating for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres S​trait Islander Australians. See him participate as a panelist for the UNDRIP and Healing Plenary Session at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide.

Championing Indigenous Rights

A descendent of the Gangulu people of central Queensland, Australia, Mick Gooda was surrounded by social justice advocacy from a young age.

“I grew up in a family of ten," says Gooda. “My dad was a unionist and he was a strong advocate for Aboriginal workers and workers' rights. We were brought up in a household where we were taught to ask questions and challenge things. It certainly had a big influence on me and my work."

Gooda joined public office in the 1980's and never looked back. He started in local Aboriginal politics and was elected to the Housing Board in Rockhampton. Since then, he's gone on to serve as the Social Justice Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Co-Commissioner on the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory and several other positions aimed towards Indigenous Rights and Indigenous health equality.

“It's been a great journey," recalls Gooda. “Of course, none of us are happy with the current status quo that we find ourselves in. But when I look back over the course of my career I'm encouraged by some of the progress that we've made. When I started my career 30, 40 years ago, we never would have seen legislative results that favour Indigenous peoples like we are starting to see today. We're doing a lot of good work in Australia, but there's still so much more that needs to be done."

UNDRIP: Guiding the way for Indigenous Rights

Part of the reason for Gooda's encouragement lies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The United Nations legislative framework for reconciliation, healing and peace has now been adopted by nearly 150 countries in collaboration with Indigenous peoples including Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand, who all initially rejected the Declaration.

The Declaration provides public servants and Indigenous Rights advocates with a comprehensive framework for action to influence laws, policies and program reforms. After initially refusing to endorse to UNDRIP in 2009, Australia reversed its decision in 2017.

Gooda explains how significant the adoption of UNDRIP has been for his work.

“The Declaration guided everything we did at the Human Rights Commission. It promotes the right to self-determination and allows us to take more control of our lives and our communities and to be involved in the decisions that affect our lives. It gives us the basis to more effectively negotiate with government on behalf of Indigenous peoples. To put simply, it's the most important document for Indigenous peoples and Indigenous Rights in the world."

Healing Our Spirit Worldwide: UNDRIP and Healing

Gooda will participate as a panelist in a plenary session on UNDRIP at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide. The session will highlight the healing journey that Indigenous communities have started through self-determination in the areas of Indigenous land, language, legislation and health.

“I'm grateful for the opportunity Healing Our Spirit Worldwide presents in allowing us to share on important topics like UNDRIP at a global level," says Gooda. “Indigenous peoples ​around the world have been colonized and we've all suffered from that. Healing Our Spirit Worldwide gives us the chance to tell our story and share with each other. Truth telling is going to be an important part of our journey to reconciliation."

Richard Jock, Chief Executive Officer, First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), will be joining Gooda as a panelist and is looking forward to sharing the FNHA's experience and alignment  with the principles of UNDRIP. A recent third-party assessment concluded that the FNHA's design and governance structure complies with UNDRIP principles and refers to the FNHA as the 'gol​d standard' for the provision of Indigenous health care.

“It starts by placing the decision-making, governance and delivery of health care services in the hands of Indigenous people," says Jock. “We know that we see improved ​health outcomes when Indigenous people have control of their own health and wellness that is based on their culture, practices and languages. The UNDRIP principle of self-determination supports us in our effort to transform the way health care is delivered to First Nations people in British Columbia."

Join us at Healing Our Spirit Worldwide

The 9th Healing Our Spirit Worldwide brings together thousands of Indigenous leaders and health care professionals from around the world to share and celebrate the healing power of traditional Indigenous knowledge and cultures. The Gathering will be held September 11 to 15, 2023 in Vancouv​​er, Canada. The UNDRIP and Healing plenary session will take place on Tuesday, September 12.

Learn more or secure your spot. ​​​

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