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Tackling racism tops UN recommendations

Tackling racism tops UN recommendations

Addressing racism, the rights of Indigenous peoples, a Human Rights Act and mandatory detention of asylum seekers are among the key recommendations made to Australia at a UN meeting on human…

Addressing racism, the rights of Indigenous peoples, a Human Rights Act and mandatory detention of asylum seekers are among the key recommendations made to Australia at a UN meeting on human rights in Geneva.

A report which followed Australia's appearance before the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was adopted this week in Geneva and Australia has until June to formally respond to 145 recommendations made by the international community.

Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) president Catherine Branson QC welcomed the recommendations, which were complemented by a series of voluntary pledges made by the Australian Government in the UPR process.

"Recommendations made by the international community offer us guidance and a fresh perspective on human rights priorities in Australia," said Branson.

"The Commission is particularly pleased that the Australian Government has agreed to use the outcome of our UPR to inform the development of Australia's National Human Rights Action Plan. The Australian Government's robust engagement in the UPR process is testament to its ongoing commitment to multilateral engagement, human rights and the rule of law," she said.

The government has made a commitment to table in Parliament the concluding observations from treaty bodies, and Branson said the UPR recommendations will bring the consideration of human rights to the heart of Australia's democratic process.

Other issues raised by participating countries were racism in Australia, the need for a strong multicultural policy, responding to violence against women and children, the need to incorporate international human rights obligations into domestic law, and revising federal laws to be compatible with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Human rights education in schools and harmonising laws to protect people against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender were also raised, along with calls to amend the Marriage Act to allow same-sex partners to marry and to recognise same-sex marriages from overseas.

Branson said the Australian Government co-operated in the process.

"We look forward to this dialogue continuing in Australia," she said. "Closing the gap between our international obligations and our domestic protections of human rights will help ensure a fairer, more inclusive and more secure Australia."

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