Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

The following content draws upon, in part, the Joint Australian NGO Coalition's fact sheets prepared for the Universal Periodic Review.

Race Discrimination Commissioner

The Australian Human Rights Commission is Australia's National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). Since 1999, the Commission has been without a full-time Race Discrimination Commissioner. Accordingly, Australia fails in its obligation to support the proper performance of an NHRI under the Paris Principles.

The part-time status of the Race Discrimination Commissioner is unacceptable, given the prevalence of race discrimination in Australia. According to the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council's The People of Australia, one in four people have experienced discrimination based on race, ethnic or national background.

In January 2011 the Attorney-General announced that the Race Discrimination Commissioner would become a full time position.

Exemption of the Disability Discrimination Act from the Migration Act

Australia's migration laws permit discrimination on the basis of disability by providing that strict health criteria must be met if one is to be granted a visa. The Migration Act 1958 is currently exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. As a result of this exemption, the migration health assessment repeatedly fails to make a distinction between disability and health. Consequently the health assessment process is discriminatory towards immigrants with disability.

It is not uncommon for families to immigrate without declaring a family member with a disability (leaving them behind, as they believe a family member with disability will compromise their application for a visa) and applying for this member to immigrate to Australia after they arrive. This process is often protracted and extremely traumatic for the family and for the individual left behind.

Families are also being denied permanent residence due to medical assessments of individual family members with disability, including blindness, hearing impairment and autism.

What the UN Human Rights Council recommended in the Universal Periodic Review

In January 2011 Australia was reviewed by the UN Human Rights Council during the Universal Periodic Review (or UPR) (a process whereby the human rights performance of all UN member states is reviewed by other states).  In June 2011 Australia provided its response to the 145 recommendations made by the Human Rights Council.

The Government has accepted over 90 per cent of the recommendations and has committed to incorporating the recommendations it has accepted into the National Human Rights Action Plan.

In relation to culturally and linguistically diverse communities, the Human Rights Council made a number of relevant recommendations.  Australia has responded to these recommendations as set out in the following table.

Recommendation

Stance

Explanation

Step up measures, such as human rights education in schools, to promote a more tolerant and inclusive society (recommendation 86.58).

Already reflected

Australia accepts the recommendation on the basis it is reflected in existing laws or policies and Australia will continue to take steps to achieve relevant outcomes.

Further strengthen Australia’s efforts to promote equality, non-discrimination and tolerance through the monitoring of racially motivated violence and inclusion of human rights education in school and university curriculum (recommendation 86.57).

Accepted

The Australian Government will continue to take steps to monitor racial violence. Discussions with States and Territories regarding human rights education will inform the development of the Australian Curriculum.

Enhance communication between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and law enforcement officials and enhance the training of those officials with respect to human rights and cultural awareness (recommendation 86.95).

Accepted

The Australian Federal Police and State and Territory police have a range of cultural awareness and human rights training in place. Additional human rights training will be delivered throughout the federal public sector including the AFP from 2011.

Take regular measures to prevent hate speech, including prompt legal action against those who incite discrimination or violence motivated by racial, ethnic or religious reasons (recommendation 86.98).

Accepted

The Australian Government will continue to administer a strong framework for the prevention of hate speech and incitement to violence.

Continue to promote multiculturalism, take measures to ensure the equal enjoyment of the basic rights of all citizens, and combat racial discrimination against minority communities, including Muslim communities, foreign students and Indigenous communities (recommendations 86.59 – 86.65).

Accepted

Australia’s new multicultural policy includes a National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy, establishment of the Australian Multicultural Council, a ‘multicultural ambassadors’ program and a Multicultural Youth Sports Partnership Program.