The Working Group on the Rights of indigenous Children and Youth (Indigenous Sub Group – ISG) was officially formed on 24 October 2005 at a meeting held at Native Child and Family Services in Toronto, Canada. It was created to build on the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child Day of General Discussion on Indigenous Child Rights and the work of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues respecting Indigenous child rights.

The development of the working group represents the first international focal point that specifically focuses on the pervasive and persistent rights violations that Indigenous children, young people and their families experience worldwide.


Embedded in thedistinct cultures and languages of Indigenous Peoples, the ISG works towards the recognition of, respect for, and implementation of the human rights of Indigenous children and young people, taking into account the specific role of their families and communities.


  • Build the visibility of indigenous children’s issues at an international level;
  • Increase pressure on national governments to prioritise redress of critical human rights concerns of Indigenous children and youth;
  • Facilitate exchange and learning of innovative advocacy strategies that are demonstrating outcomes for indigenous children and youth rights;
  • Develop a strategy to improve the human rights outcomes for indigenous children and youth globally through international partnerships and action.

Current Convenor:

The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care – SNAICC (Australia)


Active Members

  • Emma Sydenham – The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC)
  • Dawn Wallam- The Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), Australia;
  • Cindy Blackstock – First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada;
  • Roy Laifungbam – Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE), India;
  • John Waldon & Ced Simpson – Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa (ACYA), New   Zealand.

Active Observers

  • Ngima Tendup Sherpa- Himalayan Health and Environmental Services Solukhumbu (HHESS), Nepal;
  • Anton Blank- Te Kahui Mana Ririk, New Zealand;
  • Margo Greenwood- National collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, Canada.
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  • Recent Activities

    Participation in the 2012 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

    Members of the ISG participated in the UNFPII held from 7-18 May 2012. The session provided a great opportunity to raise the visibility of critical human rights issues impacting Indigenous children and to build partnerships to strengthen collective work for outcomes for Indigenous children around the world. The Indigenous Sub Group undertook a range of activities such as:
    • Hosted a side event on strengthening advocacy for Indigenous children’s rights on Wednesday 9 May 2012
    • Provided a statement on Indigenous children
    • Prepared a background paper titled ‘Children Growing the Declaration Strong,’ which introduces key human rights instruments relevant to the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The paper presents practical opportunities and recommendations for organisations to advocate for improved protection, promotion and advancement of Indigenous children’s rights through the use of these instruments
    • SNAICC, on behalf of ISG, prepared a summary of recommendations of UNPFII concerning Indigenous children and youth, and the status of their implementation. This summary highlights key areas which have received UNPFII attention as well as the invisibility of other fundamental child rights concerns impacting Indigenous children and youth around the world, including in Australia. The summary aims to provide a detailed basis for NGOs and collectives to lobby UNPFII Members, other UN bodies and their own governments to follow up key recommendations made over the years.

    Submission to UN Secretary General on the rights of Indigenous children

    The ISG made a submission for consideration in the inquiry being undertaken by the United Nations Secretary General for report to the UN General Assembly on the rights of the child, with a focus on the rights of Indigenous children. SNAICC also made a submission on pertinent issues impacting Indigenous children in Australia.
    UN Committee on the Rights of the Child review of Australia

    The Committee on the Rights of the Child reviewed Australia’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Geneva from 4-5 June 2012.
    ISG Convenor, SNAICC, was present in Geneva for the review, having been a part of an NGO collective engaged with the Committee over the past couple of years to prepare for this hearing. Positive discussions took place at the hearing between the Committee and members of the Australian Government, and more informally with NGOs. SNAICC highlighted with both the Government and the UN Committee persistent human rights issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and the need to change the way we do things.
    The UN Committee’s report provided comprehensive recommendations to the Australian Government on a number of serious human rights issues requiring redress. They highlight in particular Australia’s failure to take on board many of its prior concerns, and the gap in institutional protection of children’s rights in Australia, including in particular for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
    The Committee highlighted the continued serious and widespread discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in accessing health, education and housing services. The Committee also expressed deep concern about overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the out of home care and criminal justice systems, inadequate standards of living, higher suicide death, homelessness, high levels of family violence and continued difficulties in birth registration, amongst other matters.
    Read SNAICC’s full report on the Social Justice Blog and see the Child Rights resource developed by SNAICC and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services on what the Committee says Australia must do to protect and support the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
    2012 Session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    The fifth session of the Expert Mechanism took place from 9-13 July 2012 in Geneva at the United Nations Palais des Nations. Key reports discussed and adopted by the Expert Mechanism include:

    • Follow-up report on Indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making, with a focus on extractive industries;
    • Study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of Indigenous peoples; and
    • Report on the questionnaire to States on best practices regarding measures and strategies used to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007.
    The Expert Mechanism also held a half-day discussion on preparations for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples which will be held in 2014. View the full report

    Current Workplan

    The ISG is currently focusing on the following areas. We are eager to work with others to increase our impact and support Indigenous children’s rights more broadly and effectively.

    Strengthen the foundation of the ISG by:

      • Building relationships among existing ISG members through exchanging information regularly, sharing resources and joint collaboration
      • Reaching out to other organisations to combine efforts to advocate for the rights of indigenous children from different countries
      • Accessing financial resources for effective participation of the members of the ISG

    Build international pressure to redress priority issues for indigenous children’s issues by:

    • Supporting increased engagement of the Committee on the Rights of the Child to strengthen protection and support for Indigenous children
    • Lobbying with other key international human rights actors, including UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of indigenous Peoples, UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, on priority issues of concern and to strengthen their strategic structural focus on Indigenous children
    • Advocating for a World Report on Indigenous children
    • Hosting events at international gatherings on indigenous issues focused on agreed issue of concern (such as UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and at International Society for prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN))

    Increase local awareness and use of international human rights instruments:

      • Implementation of General Comment 11 on Indigenous children. This focuses on, for example, the right to culture for children and what it means across different fields, including child protection, early childhood, education, etc.
      • Use of the treaty body monitoring review processes, particularly for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and also the Universal Periodic Review, to engage people locally on Indigenous child rights issues and advocate for the issues at the national and international levels

    Develop a strategy for advancing one common critical core human rights issue impacting indigenous children globally.

    The question we are raising is – where are the opportunities for action and where should we most strategically invest our energy to raise visibility of the needs of Indigenous children and the injustices they continue to experience?
    Do you want to join us?

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    Past Work

    Participation in the 2007 United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

    Two presentations were delivered at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on 14 May 2007 namely:

    The Indigenous Sub-Group worked persistently with the Committee and other key stakeholders on the development and adoption of General Comment No. 11 on Indigenous Children and their Rights under the Convention.

    The ISG also hosted a side event at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UNICEF offices in New York on 28 May 2009 on General Comment No. 11 on the rights of Indigenous children.

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    Contact us

    Join us to strengthen our collective efforts for change!
    If you are working on Indigenous children’s rights or looking at how you can increase your work in this area, please contact convenor Emma Sydenham.
    If you are going to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2013 or want to participate in the preparation for the three day International Expert meeting on ‘Indigenous Youth: Identity, Challenges and Hope’, connect with us now.
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