Renowned human rights lawyer Professor Megan Davis has reached another milestone in her career after being elected Chair of one of the most influential subdivisions of the United Nations.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) professor is the new Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People (EMRIP), and the Cobble Cobble woman from the Barrungam Nation will now lead a team of experts to protect Indigenous human rights across the globe.

“Since the moment I first began work at the UN, as a junior lawyer, I have seen the importance of international cooperation and coalitions to defend the rights of Indigenous people,” Professor Davis said.

The Human Rights Council, the UN’s main body responsible for country-specific human rights concerns, established the EMRIP in 2007.

Professor Davis is among the seven experts chosen to provide the Council with information about Indigenous peoples, as well as sounding the alarm on potential human rights concerns.

She has been a member of the UN Expert Mechanism since 2017 and her area of expertise lies in Indigenous peoples in international law and Indigenous women in Australian democracy.

“We tackle complex issues and on the ground situations for both the Human Rights Council and member states,” she said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put pressure on, and in many cases directly impeded, the rights of Indigenous peoples globally.

“It is more important than ever that member states, international bodies, and the private sector protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

Professor Davis has extensive experience as an international lawyer at the UN, from 1999 to 2004 she helped create the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

She was also an expert member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues from 2011 to 2016, during which she focused on two main campaigns for UN Women and UN AIDS.

In 2015, she was chosen by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to join the Referendum Council where she deliberated and discussed constitutional matters to ensure the voices of Indigenous Australians were heard. This work led to the creation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

By Britney Coulson