Australia and Human Rights
Australia believes that the protection and promotion of human rights is vital to global efforts to achieve lasting peace and security, and freedom and dignity for all. Australia’s commitment to human rights reflects our national values and is an underlying principle of Australia’s engagement with the international community.
Australia’s Human Rights Framework, launched in 2010, sets out a range of Australia’s key measures to further protect and promote human rights in Australia’s domestic policy. It is based on five key principles and focuses on:
- reaffirming a commitment to our human rights obligations
- the importance of human rights education
- enhancing our domestic and international engagement on human rights issues
- improving human rights protections including greater parliamentary scrutiny, and
- achieving greater respect for human rights principles within the community.
Human Rights Mechanisms and the Asia-Pacific
Australia supports capacity building to implement international human rights standards globally and in the Asia-Pacific.
Australia engages in bilateral dialogues with China, Vietnam and Laos. The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade recently conducted an Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Dialogues with China and Vietnam. The Australian Government response to the inquiry was tabled on 20 June 2013.
Human Rights Grants Scheme
The Human Rights Grants Scheme provides funding to non-government organisations and human rights institutions, based or operating in developing countries, to deliver projects that promote and protect human rights in direct and tangible ways. The Scheme is administered by DFAT. Applications for the 2012-2013 Human Rights Grants Scheme have now closed.
Regional Bodies and National Human Rights Institutions
Australia works with the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions (APF), the International Coordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC), governments, civil society and regional actors (including the Pacific Islands Forum) to encourage the formation, and build capacity, of National Human Rights Institutions in the region.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body that is responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia. Each state and mainland territory in Australia also has its own human rights body, usually termed anti-discrimination and/or equal opportunities commission.
Australia’s Multilateral Initiatives
Human Rights Council
The Australian Mission to the United Nations in Geneva represents Australia's interests in the Human Rights Council. The Council was created in March 2006 to replace the former Commission on Human Rights as the United Nations' pre-eminent human rights body and Australia has been an active participant as a non-member of the Council at all sessions.
Australia has announced its candidacy for election to the Human Rights Council for the 2018-20 term. This is the first time Australia has sought membership of the Council and reflects our strong commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights. Australia’s latest statements to the Human Rights Council are available from the Australian Mission's Statements page.
Australia's Universal Periodic Review
The Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every four-to-five years.
Australia's National Report for Universal Periodic Review was lodged with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in October 2010 and reviewed during the Tenth UPR Session in January 2011. Senator the Hon. Kate Lundy, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, led the Australian delegation to the Human Rights Council.
Australia’s National Report, statements from the interactive dialogue before the Human Rights Council and Australia’s response to the UPR recommendations are available from the Attorney-General’s Department. The next review is scheduled for 2015.
Social, Humanitarian Cultural Affairs Committee (Third Committee)
The Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York works to advance Australia's human rights priorities, primarily through the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. Australia’s latest statements from the New York Mission are available from the Australian Mission’s Statements page.
Reports to United Nations bodies
- Australia's 4th periodic report under the Convention Against Torture [PDF]
- Australia's combined Fourth and Fifth Reports on Implementing the United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [PDF]
- Response of the Australian Government to the Request for Additional Information from the Sixty-Sixth Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination [PDF]
- Australia's combined Second and Third Reports under the convention on the Rights of the Child [PDF]
- Australia's Reports under the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- Concluding observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on Australia's fourth periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
|Treaty||Last report lodged||Next report due||Last appearance before treaty committee|
|Convention Against Torture||4th periodic report lodged on 7 April 2005||August 2012||4th periodic report considered by the Committee Against Torture 29-30 April 2008 at its 40th session|
|International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights||5th periodic report lodged on 25 July 2007||To be advised. Australia has accepted the HRC’s new alternative process: the ‘List of Issues Prior to Reporting’ and awaits the adoption of a list of issues by the HRC.||5th periodic report considered by the Human Rights Committee in March 2009 at its 95th session|
|Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women||Combined 6th and 7th periodic reports lodged on 25 July 2007||July 2014||6th and 7th periodic reports considered by the CEDAW Committee in July 2010 at its 46th session|
|Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination||15th, 16th and 17th periodic reports lodged in December 2009||October 2012||15th, 16th and 17th periodic reports considered by the CERD Committee in Augsut 2010 at its 77th session|
|International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights||4th report lodged on 25 July 2007.||July 2014||4th periodic report considered by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in May 2009 at its 42nd session.|
|Convention on the Rights of Children||4th periodic report lodged in October 2008||Not yet scheduled.||4th report considered by the CRC Committee in June 2012|
|Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities||Initial report lodges on 3 December 2010||Not yet scheduled.|