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UN On Racial Discrimination And Australia

  • August 28th, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

un-badge.jpgThe United Nations committee on racial discrimination has finished its regular review for Australia, criticising policy implementation on aborigines and asylum seekers, and the mining industry, with some praise also for gestures like the “sorry” initiative.

The independent Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, based at Geneva, heard from Aboriginal elders, human rights advocates and the Australian government.

On indigenous affairs: It said further moves to support indigenous rights should include a treaty and improved access to legal aid, and noted the Australian Constitution did not expressly guarantee specified rights.

It deplored the fact that the Anti-discrimination Act could be suspended, as it was in 2007 to permit the emergency program for outback settlements, which mandated such measures as a health audit on children, local bans on alcohol and controls on pensions spending.

Against the mining industry, operating in remote parts of thecountry, it suggested a “legal framework regulating the obligation of Australian corporations at home and overseas whose activities, notably in the extractive sector, when carried out on the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples, have had a negative impact on Indigenous peoples’ rights to land, health, living environment and livelihoods.”

The “boat people” issue was reviewed, with criticism of mandatory detention of asylum seekers, with detention to be  only a measure of last resort; further reform of reception arrangements particularly where children continue to be held in “detention-like” settings, with family separation; guarantees that rejected aslylum seekers are niot forced to go bnck to their home countries, and an end to the  suspension of processing of visa applications from Afghanistan (in favour of standard processing regardless of country of origin).

The committee report included mention of Indian students suffering misadventure in Australia, over the last year, including incidents in which some were attacked.

Countries including Australia  that undertake treaty oblifgations on human rights take part in a five-yearly review process, in   consultation  with the committee, under the auspices of the UN  High Commisisoner for Human Rights.

The Australian representative at Geneva, Peter Woolcott, had earlier outlined initiatives taken in Australia, including the formal apology to the Stolen Generation of indigenous people, and the appointment of Special Rapporteurs on indigenous rights and health.


Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Office of the UN High Commissioner for HR, Geneva, Home,, (28.8.10).

Jonathan Lynn  (Stephanie Nebehay, Tim Pearce)  , Reuters, Geneva, “Australia must tighten mining, racism laws: U.N.”,, (28.8.10).

Radio Australia (“Connect Asia”) , “Australia defends against racism claims to UN committee”, 12.8.10., (28.8.10).