RLC participated as a lead author and co-author of numerous sections within the report.
First published in April 2020, the report has now been submitted to the Human Rights Commission and will inform Australia’s 2021 Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The UPR is a five-yearly UN Human Rights Council review process that provides an opportunity for other nations to identify human rights problems in Australia and make recommendations about possible solutions.
Australia’s Human Rights Scorecard provides a human rights roadmap for Australia’s future. It makes 88 recommendations for change, including the need to address the long-standing and widespread human rights violations endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The report urges urgent government action to address significant human rights concerns disproportionately affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including deaths in custody, over-incarceration and over-policing.
Among its many recommendations, the report calls for a referendum to ensure that Australia’s Constitution recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples rights, removes racist elements and includes an anti-discrimination clause.
It also calls for the establishment of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander elected representative Voice to Parliament, and a Makarrata and Truth and Justice Commission to develop a treaty with the First Peoples of Australia.
Human rights and COVID-19
Australia’s submission to the UN comes in the midst of a global health crisis. For this reason, Annexure C was introduced to ensure the report addressed issues related specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, social, economic and health inequalities already present in Australia have been reinforced, and many people and communities are facing severe risks to their human rights.
The report outlines whose human rights are the least protected from the catastrophic impacts of the pandemic as well as providing possible solutions to the pre-existing inequalities responsible for their vulnerability.
In particular, the report highlights fears around the impact of COVID-19 on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who already face significant structural inequities including poor housing, limited access to health care, and high rates of overcrowding and homelessness.
More broadly, it raises concerns around Australia’s COVID-19 crisis response and the needs of communities experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage, including:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
People with disabilities
People from culturally and linguistically diverse communities
Women, especially women experiencing domestic and family violence
People in prison
People experiencing poverty
People experiencing, and at risk of homelessness.
Over the coming months, a further update to the report will be prepared to address the human rights implications of Australia’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.