By Leah Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer Reconciliation Australia

This week I travelled to the USA where I presented the Expert Panel’s report Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution to UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr James Anaya.

James was the guest speaker at a conference dinner in Arizona which brought together Indigenous peoples from Canada, New Zealand, USA and Australia.

The conference was a great chance for everyone to share insights on different pathways to self- determination and the relationship between governance and economic development.

James spoke about his role with the UN and provided different examples of how Indigenous peoples from around the world have been recognised.  I was inspired to hear some of the successful stories of Indigenous communities throughout the world who are taking more control and responsibility for their futures.

Today we visited the Tohono O’Odham Nation in Arizona and met with the Chair of the Legislative Council and Chairperson of the Tribal Council. We learnt about their governance structure and their economic enterprises which will no doubt come in handy for this year’s Indigenous Governance Awards program.

I also had a chance to visit the Tohono O’odham Cultural Centre and Museum.  When I came to this Nation in  2006 the Cultural Centre was still under construction, so it was exciting to see the Centre completed. It provides a valued place for the reclamation of their artefacts—and is a great educational facility for their culture and language.

Recognition has been a major theme of my trip so far and I’m looking forward to talking more about the Constitutional recognition of Australia’s first peoples upon my return.