The Sámi Parliament of Norway: lessons for Indigenous peoples’ governance
Free Public Lecture
Lower Ground, Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
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2018 Narrm Oration
The Uluru Statement, released in 2017, has prompted widespread discussion in Australia around the creation of a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament. As this conversation progresses, and Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike pressure the government for constitutional recognition and treaty, we can learn from the struggles and successes of First Nations peoples around the world whose stories guide and inspire.
The story of the Sámi offers profound lessons on constitutional recognition and self-determination for Indigenous Australians today. With Sámi people divided across four nation states – Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – the likely future for the Sámi differs greatly across those states. Only in Norway is the right of the Sámi to self-determination recognised and an agreement between the Sámi Parliament and the Norwegian state in place that the former should be consulted about issues concerning the Sámi people. This is, in principle and in part, what the Uluru statement requested: an Indigenous voice to the Australian Parliament.
Funding of the Sámi Parliament is, however, inadequate and impacts efforts to strengthen Sámi language and culture. The challenges of increasing urbanisation and resource extraction from Sámi traditional lands also continue to threaten Sámi language and culture.
While ethnic parliaments are forbidden under Russian constitutional law, the three Sámi Parliaments in Norway, Sweden and Finland demonstrate the influence of divergent government policy and legislation on efforts for self-determination for the Sámi people.
As the Sámi look to secure their future in each of these geographic territories, there is ongoing discussion about a Nordic Sámi Convention to increase the equitability of nation state policy towards the Sámi people rather than the creation of a Sámi state. Niklas Labba will offer precious insights into the fundamental importance of First Nations voice and constitutional recognition to the long-term prosperity of Indigenous peoples across the globe.
The Narrm Oration is the University’s key address profiling leading Indigenous peoples from across the world; the Oration will be followed by a panel discussion on the importance of the Indigenous voice in governance.