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Indigenous Elder to present paper at UN forum

Published:16 April 2019

Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie is looking forward to a big year as she drives key Indigenous projects for CQUni.

CQUniversity Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie will be visiting New York to attend the United Nation’s plenary meeting of the 18th Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 22 April - 3 May.

The Cairns-based academic will meet fellow Indigenous Peoples, States, UN entities and National Human Rights Institutions at the prestigious meeting and will be joined by CQUniversity Office of Indigenous Engagement (OIE) Senior Project Coordinator Sam Johnston.

“The Permanent Forum meets every year in April and the theme for this meeting is Traditional knowledge: Generation, transmission and protection,” Assoc. Prof. Marrie explains.

“I was invited by the chief of the Permanent forum to put forward a document on the topic of traditional knowledge of Indigenous communities globally which will be made open for discussion at the Forum,” she says.

“The paper, entitled Emerging trends in the generation, transmission and protection of Traditional Knowledge will set the scene of the discussion for the meeting. Traditional knowledge is rapidly disappearing, with UNESCO estimating that at least 43 per cent of 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered; most, if not all of these are Indigenous languages and represent a great loss of traditional knowledge.

“It is increasingly recognised that unlocking the potential of traditional knowledge can help modern society address significant challenges ranging from climate change and sustainable agriculture to new pathways for sustainable development for ensuring the livelihoods for Indigenous and local communities.”

In addition to the plenary meeting, Assoc. Prof. Marrie will also front media at the press conference on the first day of the Forum (22 April, 1:15 pm -2 pm).

Assoc. Prof. Marrie is Australia’s first Indigenous person employed in a senior position with the United Nations Environment Program - Convention on Biological Diversity.

She is listed among the Westpac and Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence for 2014 for her work in public policy.

She now also oversees CQUniversity’s First People’s Think Tank and Research Centre, located within the Office of Indigenous Engagement.

“CQUniversity’s First Peoples’ Think Tank and Research Centre (also known as the Yei-Nie Institute, after Yei-Nie the King of Cairns, or the Peace-maker, in recognition of his status as a great warrior of Australia) will develop high-quality public policy for Australia’s future,” Assoc. Prof. Marrie says.

“It responds to the widespread view that Australia needs a non-partisan think tank providing independent, rigorous and practical solutions to some of the country’s most pressing problems and aims to plays a critical role as a catalyst for change and promote opportunities for sustainable environmental, social, cultural, economic and political development.

“In addition to presenting my paper at the UN Forum I will also have the opportunity to promote the Think Tank and provide an insight into what the Think Tank will do,” she says.

“It’s also a great opportunity to reach out and collaborate with more UN agencies, developing connections with them so that we can continue doing reports and draft papers which would assist in discussions around the world.”

While in New York, Assoc. Prof. Marrie has also been invited by the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples to present at a Ford Foundation breakfast.

“The Ford Foundation is a large American private philanthropic organisation whose mission has sought to advance human welfare through the reduction of poverty and injustice, strengthening of democratic values, promotion of international cooperation and advancement of human achievement,” Assoc. Prof. Marrie explains.

“The Ford Foundation breakfast will enable further discussion on traditional knowledge, Indigenous peoples and the importance of intergenerational transfer of knowledge, and also promote the need for Indigenous-led institutions such as the First Peoples Think Tank.”

Assoc. Prof. Marrie will be highlighting the kind of research that the First Peoples Think Tank is involved in, with view to attracting and linking with global networks.