In 2021 Australia will have its human rights record assessed at the United Nations Human Rights Council in a process known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR provides an opportunity for other nations to identify human rights problems in Australia and make recommendations about possible solutions.
To inform this process, leading Australian human rights experts, non-government organisations and community groups have compiled this report – Australia’s Human Rights Scorecard: Australia’s 2020 United Nations UPR NGO Coalition Report. The Report, endorsed by over 200 organisations, provides a comprehensive insight into the state of human rights in Australia in 2020.
The Report has been completed at a time of unprecedented challenges. Australia is still emerging from the bushfire crisis of summer 2019/20, which inflicted significant trauma, scarred First Nations peoples’ lands and resulted in the loss of life and livelihoods. The climate crisis, an area of political debate for many years in Australia, showed itself more than ever to be an issue of life or death which will increasingly, devastatingly, impact on human rights.
On the back of that deep trauma and dislocation, Australia, like the rest of the world, now faces the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The widespread health, social and economic consequences of COVID-19, and Australia’s response to the pandemic, bring into sharp focus the critical vulnerability of many people whose human rights are not properly protected in Australia, as highlighted throughout the Report.
Annexure C updates the Report, which was finalised in April 2020, to address recent developments arising from the COVID 19 pandemic. In a time of exceptional challenges, the Report and Annexure identify the people and communities whose human rights are most at risk as a result of the cascading and compounding impacts of the pandemic. It also outlines ways to address pre-existing inequalities and ensure the human rights of those most vulnerable are at the centre of decision-making.
The growing Black Lives and Aboriginal Lives Matter movements have drawn fresh attention to the long struggle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to address systemic racism, police brutality, and deaths in custody. This Report outlines the urgent need to address the long-standing and widespread human rights violations endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, and makes a series of robust recommendations for enduring change.
The Report’s 88 recommendations provide a thorough human rights roadmap for Australia’s future with human rights principles at its centre. In these times, nothing could be more urgent than the realisation of human rights and principles of equality, dignity, respect and fairness.