human rights news & views

A choice between race and rights

On Human Rights Day this year, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission continued its tradition of hosting an oration in Melbourne.  This year's guest speaker was award-winning journalist, author and political and social commentator David Marr and his topic: "Does Australia really give a damn about rights?" In a delightful coincidence, Federation Square […]

Yorta Yorta elder a hero of the Jews

Australia has a human rights defender on a par with Raoul Wallenberg and Oskar Schindler for his stance against Nazi Germany, yet William Cooper is little known in Australia today. Appalled by the vicious carnage of Kristallnacht, the watershed pogrom of November 1938, Aboriginal leader Bill Cooper (right) led a protest walk from his home […]

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 […]

Vicki Roach: ‘The Eddie Mabo of electoral law’

While she was inside, prison authorities refused to allow indigenous activist Vicki Roach to give media interviews about her remarkable 2007 High Court Constitutional challenge.  Instead, she wrote a letter to Anita Barraud of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation outlining some of her arguments: "Excluding us from the democratic process while we are in prison, however […]

Medal of Freedom undeserved

The awarding of the highest US civilian honour, the Medal of Freedom, to former Australian Prime Minister John Howard this month (left) was staggering to human rights activists familiar with his record. Even more galling was the same award given to Colombia's President Álvaro Uribe. The Presidential Medal is intended to recognise an "especially meritorious […]

Australia’s first POW an indigenous hero

There have been prisoners-of-war (POWs) as long as there has been war, but international recognition of their right to protection from abuse is much more recent. The Red Cross has counted over 500 recorded texts attempting to regulate hostilities prior to modern laws of war.  The Chinese, for instance, were debating treatment of POWs as […]

Indigenous ‘nomad’ died in custody

Amnesty International called it "shocking and preventable."  On 27 January 2008, Australian indigenous leader and land rights activist Ian Ward — "one of the last nomads born in the Gibson Desert" — died in custody. The Warburton man was being driven 915km from Laverton in the Western Desert to Kalgoorlie for a mention in relation […]

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 […]