Human Rights Day: It’s time for Australia to become a modern democracy

December 10, 2021

Australia was integral to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Now we are the only Western Democracy on the planet without a Federal Charter of Human Rights.

Today is Human Rights Day and 73 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document which underpins all international human rights law and inspires us to continue to work to ensure all people can live in freedom, equality and dignity. This year’s Human Rights Day theme, “Equality”, focuses on reducing inequalities, advancing human rights and rebuilding fairer and greener from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) President Kerry Weste says, “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many of Australia’s failures in protecting, applying and balancing international human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination. It again exposes the anomaly that Australia is the only nation in the developed Western world bereft of a Federal Charter of Human Rights to ensure we all live with dignity, equality and respect.”

“December 10 is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the Australia we want – one that legally protects everyone’s basic rights and freedoms. Australia was a founding member of the UN and one of eight nations involved in drafting the UDHR. We should be very proud of the part we played. Sadly, we have recently seen a continued advance toward increasingly disproportionate government measures that endanger the limited human rights and non-discrimination protections we do have. Through measures such as proposed Voter ID and Religious Discrimination Bills, the federal government is seeking to erode the equality of all human rights and undermine their inalienable, indivisible and interdependent nature.”

“Australians should be alarmed at the failure of our legal system to protect fundamental rights. These rights are the very foundations of democracy. ALHR calls on our federal politicians to open up a dialogue about a Federal Charter of Human Rights for Australia. We now have Human Rights Acts in the ACT, Victoria and Queensland. A Federal Charter of Human Rights would ensure that, instead of selectively enshrining only a few of Australia’s international legal obligations in Commonwealth legislation, the human rights of all Australians are protected in a comprehensive national framework. This is about good governance. The citizens of every other comparable democratic nation enjoy such protections and Australians deserve nothing less. It’s time for Australia to grow up and become a modern democracy.”

 Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.