The UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights will review Australia’s compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva on 5 and 6 May 2009. On 4 May 2009, a non-government delegation, comprising representatives from the Human Rights Law Resource Centre, the National Association of Community Legal Centres and Kingsford Legal Centre, will brief the Committee on the state of human rights in Australia and measures to improve performance. The Committee will release its report on Australia on or around 22 May 2009.
The Human Rights Law Resource Centre, together with the National Association of Community Legal Centres and Kingsford Legal Centre, has submitted the following materials to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights regarding Australia:
- Freedom, Respect, Equality, Dignity: Action - NGO Submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (April 2008) [PDF]. This major report was compiled with the assistance of substantial contributions from over 30 NGOs across Australia. It is endorsed, in whole or in part, by over 100 NGOs. This report was intended to assist the Committee to prepare a List of Issues for Australia during the Pre-Sessional Working Group meeting from 19 to 23 May 2008. It is also intended to ensure that the Committee is equipped to engage in a rigorous and constructive dialogue with Australia when it is reviewed by the Committee in 2009.
- Freedom, Respect, Equality, Dignity: Action - Addendum to NGO Submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (April 2009) [PDF]. This addendum updates the Committee on major human rights developments between April 2008 and April 2009.
- Executive Summary of NGO Reports (April 2009) [PDF]. The Executive Summary was prepared as the primary working document for the Committee members and the Secretariat. The Executive Summary:
- provides a brief introduction and comments on the context of the review by the Committee, including significant positive developments in the promotion and protection of Covenant rights in Australia;
- addresses the List of Issues developed by the Committee;
- outlines our major additional concerns that are not raised in the List of Issues; and
- includes an updated list of Proposed Recommendations that we consider would be important to include in the Committee's Concluding Observations on Australia.
Together, these Reports provide a comprehensive and constructive analysis of the state of ESC rights in Australia and make a range of targeted recommendations to address disadvantage and poverty. The Reports document a number of areas in which Australia is falling short of its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The Reports focus on areas that have been the subject of extensive NGO activity and research in Australia. Subjects detailed in the Reports include:
- the lack of legal recognition and protection of economic, social and cultural rights;
- the nature and extent of poverty in Australia and the need for a comprehensive national poverty reduction strategy;
- Indigenous self-determination and disadvantage;
- the current housing crisis and the significant problem of homelessness;
- groups within society that remain vulnerable to discrimination, such as Indigenous peoples, women and children, people with disability, asylum seekers and gay and lesbian couples;
- violence against women;
- the inadequacy of income and social security supports;
- the regression of workers' rights;
- the crisis in mental health in Australia and the inadequacy of mental health care;
- the chronic under funding of both public health care and education; and
- the deleterious impacts of Australia’s immigration law and policy on families and children.