CERD: NGO Report for Review of Australia

Australia is scheduled to be reviewed by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in relation to its compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in Geneva in August 2010. In July 2010, the Human Rights Law Resource Centre, together with the National Association of Community Legal Centres, submitted a major NGO submission on Australia to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The report, which was endorsed by a coalition of over 100 NGOs, details that racial and religious minority groups in Australia continue to experience racism in their daily lives and to suffer unequal human rights treatment and outcomes.  There remain serious concerns about the racially discriminatory character and impact of a range of Australian laws, policies and practices.  Many of the advances in human rights protection since the election of the Labor Government in 2007 have been symbolic in nature; structural changes necessary to turn commitments into practice still need to be made.

The NGO report documents areas in which Australia is falling short of fulfilling its obligations under CERD and focuses on areas that have been the subject of extensive NGO activity and research in Australia.

Subjects detailed in the report include:

  • the lack of sufficient legal protection from racial discrimination in Australian law, policy and practice, including the ineffectiveness and, at times, unavailability of remedies for violations;
  • the ongoing discriminatory outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the enjoyment of many civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights;
  • the impact of the Northern Territory Intervention on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • the adverse impact of laws, policies and practices on asylum seekers, refugees and other non-citizens;
  • the various forms of discrimination faced by migrant communities in Australia;
  • the impact of Australia’s counter-terrorism laws on Somali, Kurd and Muslim communities in Australia; and
  • the need for better implementation of Concluding Observations of human rights treaty monitoring bodies and a worrying trend in Australia’s response to views of those bodies.

The report contains concrete recommendations for Australian authorities, which would bring Australia more fully into compliance with its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; an Australia in which all persons can live with freedom, respect, equality and dignity.