Australia’s election to UN Human Rights Council a test of commitment to values

Campaigns and Advocacy, Humanitarian Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases article written on the 17 Oct 2017

Australia must use its term on the United Nations Human Rights Council to push for stronger human rights protections at home and globally, Oxfam Australia said today.

Responding to confirmation that Australia has been elected unopposed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Oxfam Australia’s Head of Policy Dr Nicole Bieske said:

“Oxfam welcomes Australia’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council but warns that the victory will ring hollow unless the government is prepared to improve its own policies in a number of areas, particularly on Indigenous and refugee issues.

“Australia’s shameful failure to work in meaningful partnership with Indigenous leaders to address the poverty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to enshrine their rights in law, cannot be ignored.

“Indigenous children are grossly over-represented in detention centres, and the child mortality rate is double the national average.

“And, according to Oxfam analysis, more than one in five Indigenous households are in Australia’s poorest 10 per cent of households—more than twice the rest of Australia.”

In terms of refugee policy, Dr Bieske said Oxfam had continuously called for the processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru to be closed and for people found to be refugees to be brought to Australia.

“It is imperative that the Australian Government provide support services to refugees who have been further traumatised by the off-shore processing system,” Dr Bieske said.

“We also call on the Australian Government to increase Australia’s refugee intake to 42,000 by 2020/21 and to offer more support to poorer refugee hosting nations.

“Australia has an unprecedented opportunity to progress human rights in the Indo-Pacific region and globally as a member of the Human Rights Council. This will require consistent and principled advocacy and a willingness to speak out when states are abusing their people.

“Instead of paying lip service to international human rights, Australia must ensure they are implemented at home and abroad.”

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