Indigenous People's Rights focus of PhD research

13 June 2016
Dr Andrew Erueti

Dr Andrew Erueti admits it “took a village to produce my thesis” – which is somewhat fitting considering its topic - The Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“One of the reasons I was able to complete my PhD is that I had an amazing supervisor who continued to provide me with superb advice and feedback even when I left the PhD programme. My family – Claire, Max and Mia – had to cover for me when I was off writing especially in the final stages. It definitely took a village to produce my thesis,” he says. 

“I started way back in 2007 but left the PhD programme in 2009 to take up a post at Amnesty International as their Indigenous Rights Adviser.  I continued to work away at it after-hours, but I only really returned to the thesis fully two years ago when I came back to academic life - first with the University of Waikato, and now the Auckland Law School. It feels great to finally complete what has been the major challenge of my professional life.

“The thesis is about international Indigenous rights - specifically the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was adopted by the UN in 2007 and there has been a lot of disagreement about how to read the Declaration’s more significant rights, especially the right to self-determination,” says Andrew.

“The orthodox view is to read the Declaration as elaborating classic human rights. But I think this understates the significance of it, especially for Indigenous Peoples in the Anglo-settlers countries like New Zealand who argued for a more radical decolonisation model of Indigenous rights in the Declaration negotiations. What I explored in detail was the politics behind the negotiation of the Declaration as it intersected with the rise of the international Indigenous movement. This revealed a struggle between a human rights model advanced by Indigenous Peoples of the “South” (Latin America, Asia and Africa) and the decolonisation model of the “North” (New Zealand, Canada, Australia, USA). And I argued that both models worked their way into the Declaration so that it should be subject to a mixed-model interpretative approach – not the now dominant single human rights model.”  

Andrew is planning to publish his thesis in 2017 and is working on the book proposal. “I believe in the project and I hope others will engage with it and maybe even apply it to their advocacy work on Indigenous rights,” he says.

“In the end though, while it was hard work -- much harder than I ever could have imagined when I started - it’s been intellectually stimulating and fulfilling. I would encourage students, and those working in the legal community, to think about undertaking a PhD.”