EXTRACT from an article by Fiona McGaughey, Lecturer, Law School, University of Western Australia.
The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has begun its two-day review of Australia’s record on racial equality.
Overnight in Geneva, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) began its two-day review of Australia, asking government representatives to explain their progress in promoting racial equality and tackling racism.
The CERD committee notified the government in advance of the key focus areas of the review. Not surprisingly, these include the situation of Indigenous peoples, and of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees; racist hate speech and hate crimes; and human rights and anti-racism protections in Australia’s laws and policies.
What is the CERD?
Australia has ratified seven of the nine core human rights treaties. Each treaty has its own treaty monitoring body, like the CERD, comprised of independent experts who are nominated by governments but do not represent them.
These bodies monitor states’ compliance with their international law obligations as set out in the treaty, primarily through periodic reporting.
Most recently, Australia received criticism from another one of these bodies, the Human Rights Committee, which highlighted shortcomings in relation to Indigenous rights, treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and the lack of a national bill of rights.
It is often overlooked that of these nine core treaties, the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) was actually adopted before any of the others. The CERD became operational in 1970, and ICERD is now the third most commonly-ratified UN human rights treaty, with 177 states signed up.
Australia and CERD – the background
The CERD last reviewed Australia’s record in 2010. The recommendations made in 2010 contained 21 specific actions for the government. These included the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as First Nations Peoples, supporting the proper performance of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), appointing a Race Discrimination Commissioner, and addressing Indigenous contact with the criminal justice system.
Like many other UN human rights bodies, in 2010 the CERD also recommended that Australia review its mandatory detention regime of asylum seekers, with a view to finding an alternative to detention and ensuring that the detention of asylum seekers is always a measure of last resort.
SOURCE: McGaughey, Fiona. “Australia’s Record on Racial Equality under the Microscope.” The Conversation, 28 November 2017.
Produced by the librarians at the Brotherhood of St Laurence in Melbourne, Australia