Growing up Megan Davis had a picture of the UN’s general assembly on her wall. Imagine, then, the delight the Australian lawyer and professor experienced upon being appointed chair of the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York City last week?
Davis will chair the 14th session of the permanent forum, which has been running from April 20th and will close on May 1st 2015 at the UN Headquarters in New York.
The young Indigenous lawyer is a professor of law at the University of New South Wales, a fellow at the Australian Academy of Law, an Acting Commissioner on the NSW Land and Environment Court, a member of the NSW Sentencing Council and is now a chair of a major UN committee.
Davis was an expert member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for some time before being appointed chair. She has also had extensive involvement with other areas of the UN – she was the Rapporteur for the International Expert Group Meeting on combating violence against Indigenous women and girls and the UN Rapporteur for the International EGM on Indigenous Youth.
Prior to this, she was the UN Fellow of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva and participated in the drafting of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
Back at home, she was also appointed to the Gillard government’s Expert Panel on the Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the Constitution in 2011.
In 2010, she was named one of the 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review. In 2013, she was NAB‘s and Women’s Agenda‘s Inspirational Ambassador of the Year.
But among an impressive list of achievements, chairing a UN forum was one of the things Davis has wanted the most.
“It’s very exciting. It’s always a privilege to be elected by your peers to a body like this to be the chair,” she told ABC’s Radio National host Patricia Karvelas.
Davis was brought up by her single mother in Queensland, and throughout her childhood she dreamed of working at the UN.
“I certainly grew up in a low socioeconomic family but one of things that my mum did instill in us was a really strong sense of not only education, but awareness of the world around us and that’s where my love of foreign policy came from,” she said.
“Even though I grew up on the single pension she could always afford Time Magazine where I first became as a little girl obsessed with the United Nations and especially the general assembly, I did have a picture of it on my wall growing up.”
“It was a bit of a spin-out today sitting on the podium and running the meeting, so it’s come full circle.”
At the forum, Davis has been reporting on one of its major agenda items for the current session: the proposed closure of Indigenous communities in Western Australia and the prime minister’s comments about these communities being a “lifestyle choice”.
Davis supported a submission to the permanent forum saying the closure of the Western Australian communities would worsen living conditions for Indigenous people living in the area. The submission will be debated over the course of the forum’s current session.
Davis’ appointment to the chair of a major UN forum marks a high point of an already stunning career in international, constitutional and human rights law. Congratulations Megan.