We’ve got a seat at the table, but how will we use it?

We’ve got a seat at the table, but how will we use it?

Last week Australia was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for a three-year term.

It's a big moment. Australia has great potential to be a voice for basic human decency and justice, but if we want to be a true human rights leader at the UN then we must lift our game both internationally and at home.

Our lawyers were in Geneva to brief an expert UN panel on how Australia is failing to meet the basic human rights standards it promised to uphold. (You can click here to download a copy of the joint report that we presented to the Committee, which was endorsed by 56 Australian NGOs.)

As our Emily Howie highlighted in her opinion piece in The Age, Australia is still warehousing 1783 proven refugees on Manus and Nauru, even after four long years filled with misery, violence and suffering.

Australia will continue to lack credibility as long as it deliberately mistreats innocent people.

Australia also needs to find its voice when it comes to standing up for human rights in our region. The Government has failed to condemn the unfolding ethnic cleansing in Myanmar or stand up for basic democratic freedoms in our region.

And of course Australia simply must do better when it comes to the shocking rates in which it locks up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Human Rights Law Centre has a proven track record of holding Australia to account on the world stage.

The next three years are crucial to Australia’s human rights record and reputation. We’ll have our staff on the ground at Human Rights Council sessions to ensure that the truth is told and to influence Australia to speak up for decency, compassion and fundamental rights.