human rights news & views

Australia endorses indigenous rights at last

The Australian Government today gave its formal support to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma (pictured right), called it a "giant step": "another milestone in the new partnership forged between Indigenous peoples and governments in February last year with the National Apology […]

Elders and elder statesmen

There were so many fine moments on Wednesday (immediately dubbed ‘Sorry Day’).  Much joy, much sorrow, much poignancy.  Awe at the extraordinary well of generosity evident in Aboriginal Australia.  Stolen survivor Archie Roach singing his incredibly moving ‘Took the Children Away‘ in Melbourne, an award-winning song that pre-dates the Bringing Them Home report, at a […]

Grudging Opposition dampens ‘Sorry Day’

What a great day.  Australia has apologised to the Stolen Generations.  Prime Minister Rudd, in the presence of the new parliament, most surviving former Prime Ministers, and about 100 survivors of the Stolen Generations, delivered an apology that acknowledged the "profound grief, suffering and loss" caused by successive governments.  He did not presume to ask […]

Australian parliament’s apology to Stolen Generations

Watch tomorrow’s historic apology live online at 8:55am, Canberra time.  Find your time zone here.   [Spoiler alert!] Here’s the text of the apology, released today.  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is expected to say:  "Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history. We reflect on their past […]

Pay compensation, Australia

Debate continues as to whether a national apology to the Stolen Generations will expose the government to compensation claims by survivors.  Or whether wording the apology in a certain way can limit that exposure (as the government claims).  Surely, this is to miss the point.  If compensation is owed, it should be paid.  Justice demands […]

Australia awaits apology

Australia awaits with anticipation next week’s long-overdue apology to the survivors of the Stolen Generations, their families and descendants.  This landmark step towards reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians is something the previous Prime Minister, John Howard — that formidable opponent of human rights — conspicuously failed to do, despite the 1997 Bringing Them Home […]

Some rights protection in some of Australia, in spite of everything

A little bit of human rights history was made in south-eastern Australia yesterday when the parliament of Victoria passed laws protecting civil and political rights. The Australian Capital Territory has had a Human Rights Act since 2004, but this is the first major jurisdiction in Australia, the first state, to pass human rights legislation. Western […]

Iran intensifies persecution of Bahá’ís

Attention to Iran's nuclear status has overshadowed its human rights record.  The UN has condemned Iran's treatment of Bahá'ís more than 56 times.  Now the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has made public her grave concerns for members of the Bahá'í faith in Iran.  Opposition politician Jennie George has succeeded in […]

Governor-General intervenes to deny equal rights

Just yesterday I was writing about the powers of the Governor-General.  Now the Queen's representative in Australia, Major General Michael Jeffery, has overturned laws passed in the ACT allowing same-sex civil unions (not quite marriage, but the closest thing we have in Australia so far). The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is a small region in […]

Adjudicating between rights

Conflicting rights claims are inevitable and it helps to have some fair, principled ways of sorting them out. A professor of law belonging to the Eualeyai and Kamillaroi nations, Larissa Behrendt cites the controversial case from the Northern Territory of Australia of a 55 year-old indigenous man convicted of raping a 14 year-old indigenous girl […]