Update on Australia’s Human Rights Scorecard

In the lead up to Australia’s review by the UN Human Rights Council, the HRLC and other NGOs along with the Australian Human Rights Commission visited Geneva to brief UN member states on the human rights situation in Australia and key issues that should be considered as part of the review.

The Universal Periodic Review is an important peer review process where UN member states have the opportunity to scrutinise Australia’s human rights record and make recommendations for change. Australia was last reviewed under the UPR in January 2011 and faces its second review this year.

The Australian Government submitted its report for the UPR in August and is appearing before the Council in Geneva on 9 November. You can watch Australia’s appearance live via webcast and follow the appearance on twitter using the hashtag #AusUPR.

Progress since the last UPR

While Australia accepted 90% of recommendations made in 2011 (in whole or in part) and a number of positive steps have been taken, progress has stalled on many recommendations and worse, there’s actually been regression in key areas.

The vehicle introduced to drive and monitor the implementation of UPR recommendations, Australia’s National Human Rights Action Plan, has not advanced, which has meant the status of many recommendations remains unclear. Australia is likely to be criticised for its failure to implement a large number of recommendations accepted in the last review as well as emerging human rights challenges. Overall, the Australian Human Rights Commission has reported that only 11% of recommendations have been fully implemented.

Briefings in Geneva

A coalition of Australian NGOs has been working hard to ensure that UN member states are provided with credible and accurate information about key human rights issues in Australia.

Last month a delegation of NGO representatives travelled to Geneva to brief UN member states in Geneva. We had a spread of representatives advocating on refugee, disability, Indigenous and LGBTI issues as well as NACLC’s Amanda Alford and the HRLC’s Anna Brown who have been co-ordinating the Australian NGO Coalition. We were armed with the Joint NGO Submission and Fact Sheets on 18 thematic areas to provide background on key issues as well as our suggested recommendations.

NGOs worked closely with the Australian Human Rights Commission to meet bilaterally with diplomats and brief missions on key issues. We also participated in a briefing session convened by UPR-Info attending by large number of mission representatives. Overall, we estimate that we reached around 100 states through the briefing session and bilateral meetings throughout the week. 

There was a high level of interest in the human rights situation in Australia. There was particular interest and concern in Australia’s asylum seeker and refugee policies and the erosion of democratic rights and freedoms since the last review. The grave human rights concerns for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were raised in the 2011 review and continue to be a significant concern. 

The team in Geneva put together some video updates throughout the week you can watch them here:

Video update 1, Video update 2, Video update 3  

What happens next?

The Australia Government will be represented by senior officials in Geneva on 9 November for its appearance before the Council. An “interactive dialogue” will take place where Australia will address the Council and representatives from other countries will make comments and recommendations to Australia about key issues of concern. It will be an opportunity to comment on positive progress but where states made recommendations at Australia’s last UPR and these have not be implemented then we can expect criticism of the lack of progress. 

The Australian Government will then formally respond to the recommendations made by states early in 2016 after consultation and dialogue with state and territory governments and NGOs in Australia.

Stay tuned for more updates and follow the hashtag #AusUPR on twitter as we get closer to the big day of Australia’s appearance on 9 November.