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Senior: 11 & 12: Unit 4: Human Rights in Australia

International Human Rights Treaties to which Australia is a Signatory

The Australian government is obligated to take pro-active measures to ensure human rights are protected by providing effective remedies for persons whose rights are violated, as well as measures against violating the rights of persons. According to the Australian Attorney-General's Department, Australia is a party to seven of the key human rights treaties of the United Nations:

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)

Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

Convention against Torture (CAT).

Australia has also ratified three of the mechanisms that give individuals the right to complain directly to United Nations bodies about violations of their rights. 

This is subject to Human Rights Scrutiny (Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011) where all new Bills and disallowable legislative instruments must be accompanied by a Statement of Compatibility.

Human Rights in Australia Ebook

Advanced Web Searching Tips

1. Use 'Ctrl F' (Control + Find) to search for particular terms easily in a long document, whether from a website or a database article.

2.  Use a Boolean command - put double inverted commas around phrases to limit and improve your results eg "energy drinks problems".

3. Use filetype:pdf to search in Google for only pdf articles - "plastic pollution" filetype:pdf - will force Google to return results on plastic pollution which are only pdf articles (PDFs are great sources sometimes deeply buried in Google results and remain unseen).

4. Use a Google domain command eg site:edu OR site:gov to limit results to a CERTAIN DOMAIN such as education or government eg biodiesel site:edu

5.  To check the authority of a website when it is not clear who the author / authority is, go to the end of the URL in the Google search box, cut back to the first forward slash (/) and hit 'Enter'. This will take you to the Home Page of the website, and you can see the full name of the source.

6. Use a Google command to limit results to the MOST RECENT: After you get your results, choose the Google Menu Bar, and choose 'Tools'. Then on the far left, at the drop-down menu next to 'Any Time', you can choose 'Within the last year' (or less, if you prefer), but generally, you can choose 'Custom Range' at the bottom, as often the last 3 years would be sufficient for a recent search.

Anti-Discrimination & Equal Opportuity Bodies / Courts and Tribunal Decisions

ONESearch Resource Explorer

The ENTIRE collection of resources provided by the BBC Library can be searched on ONE single, powerful search platform, which retrieves print books, eBooks, database articles and websites. Click HERE for assistance.

Useful Databases

These are accessible on campus only. To read the replica form of most of these newspapers, click on the top bar to 'Read the paper'

To read the day's paper, scroll right to the bottom of the page, to 'Today's paper' 

Useful Vocabulary for Persuasive Writing

Possible Topics

Possible Research Topics

  • Sexual harassment at work
  • Domestic violence
  • Equal pay
  • Trafficking (for sex or slavery)

Relevant International Treaty or Convention, or Australian Law
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women- external site (CEDAW)

Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)  Under this act, people are protected from discrimination and unfair treatment due to sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, relationship status, pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 (Cth)

General Websites
Human Rights Watch: Women’s Rights Australia

Workplace Gender Equality Agency: Gender Equality in Australia – A Guide to Gender Equality in 2020 

The Lowy Institute: Australia must walk the talk on women's rights - globally and at home

Australian Human Rights Commission: Sex Discrimination (especially sexual harassment and work discrimination)


Possible research topics

  • Treaty / Referendum recognition in the Constitution
  • Improving health / education outcomes
  • Reducing incarceration rates
  • Indigenous women (domestic violence)
  • Indigenous children (health / education / welfare)

Relevant International Treaty or Convention(s) 
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1976)

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP, adopted by the UN 2007). Click on the 'English PDF' section.

Outlined in the UNDRIP are Indigenous People’s rights to:

  • Be free from discrimination
  • Their cultural identity
  • Self determination (The right to decide on matters that affect your own life, land or livelihood)
  • Free, prior and informed consent (the right to be consulted and given all the information necessary to make decisions that may impact your life or land.)

Australian Human Rights Commission Submission to the UN Human Rights Committee

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination- external site (CERD)

Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)

General Websites
Human Rights Watch 2021: Indigenous Rights in Australia

Queensland Human Rights Commission: Human rights and discrimination: a guide for our mob

Sydney Morning Herald: Historic new Closing the Gap targets aim at achieving parity for all Australians

Constitutional Recognition
Australian Human Rights Commission: About Constitutional recognition

Australian Human Rights Commission: Constitutional reform: Fact Sheet - Recognising Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people in the Constitution

The Australian: Indigenous Voice Panel Split Over Referendum

Reducing Incarceration Rates
Creative Spirits: 12+ ways to reduce Aboriginal incarceration rates

The Guardian: UN countries challenge Australia's Indigenous incarceration record in human rights review

Indigenous Women and Children
Australian Human Rights Commission: Landmark report - First Nations women and girls in 2020

Australian Human Rights Commission: Ending Family Violence and Abuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018

Possible research topics:

  • Aged care (eg chemical restraints)
  • Elder abuse (eg financial / physical)  
  • Poverty 
  • Lack of specific measures and services

Relevant International Treaty or Convention: 
United Nations Principles for Older Persons, based on the International Plan of Action on Ageing 1982, states that older persons should be able to enjoy human rights that include full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care and quality of their lives. 

Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)

Useful Websites

Australian Human Rights Commission: Human Rights and Older People

Australian Human Rights Commission: Age Discrimination

UNOHCHR: Human Rights of Older Persons

Law Council of  Australia: International Convention on the Rights of Older Persons

Human Rights Watch 2021: Rights of Older People - Australia

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Executive Summary

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aged Care Quality and Safety: Final Report calls for fundamental and systemic aged care reform

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aged Care Quality and Safety Released 

CONTENTS PAGE - Features Elder Abuse and Aged Care Crisis


Possible research topics:

  • Housing, Health, Personal safety, education, work, non-discrimination, social security, freedom of movement, freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.- look at the issues in the first website below.
  • Public space laws

    Human rights of the homeless affected by public space laws include:

    • the right to freedom of movement and freedom of association
    • the right to freedom of expression
    • the right to freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or

Relevant International Treaty or Convention(s):

Useful Websites

Australian Human Rights Commission: Homelessness is a human rights issue

Australian Human Rights: Housing, homelessness and human rights

Sydney Morning Herald: Calls for human right to shelter in Australia
NOTE: This article might provide you with a change which needs to be implemented.

Mission Australia: Position Statement - Out of the Shadows: Domestic and family violence - a leading cause of homelessness in Australia

Possible research topics:

  • Sexual abuse
  • Child safety
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14 (a very relevant topic RIGHT NOW!)
  • Juvenile justice and youth detention
  • Child marriage

The 2019 Children's Rights Scorecard suggested there was need for urgent measures to be taken in order to protect children:

  • from violence
  • in alternative care
  • in relation to mental health
  • from environmental damage and climate change
  • who are refugees, seeking asylum and in situations of migration, and
  • in the administration of justice.

Relevant International Treaty or Convention: 

 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Useful Websites

Australian Human Rights Commission: Children's Rights

Australian Human Rights Commission: Children's Rights Report 2019

Australian Human Rights Commission: Children's Rights in Australia - A Scorecard

Human Rights Watch 2021: Children's Rights Australia

Library of Congress Law: Children's Rights Australia

Library of Congress Law: Child Protection Law and Policy - Australia

Sexual Abuse
Kells Lawyers: Law reform in relation to child sexual abuse in Australia 

Youth Justice Detention
Australian Children's Commissioners and Guardians: Conditions and treatment in Youth Justice detention 2017

Possible research topics:

Relevant International Treaty or Convention(s) 
Convention against Torture (CAT) prohibits subjecting people to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

General Websites

Human Rights Watch 2021: Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Australia

University of NSW: Australia's refugee policy - an overview

Australian Human Rights Commission: Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Australian Human Rights Commission: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants

Human Rights Measurement Initiative: Human rights abuses of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia

Human Rights Law Centre: UN finds Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers violates the Convention Against Torture

Opposition to the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020

Refugee Council: Submission to the inquiry on the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items In Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020