‘Rising levels of racism’ concern UN

The United Nations says it is concerned at rising levels of racism, discrimination and xenophobia in Australia and that Indigenous people, migrants and refugees are bearing the brunt of racist hate speech and violence.

In another broadside at Australia on human rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has called on the Australian Government to crack down on racial intolerance.

In particular it said Australia should ensure that sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act — which the Federal Government controversially and unsuccessfully moved to water down in March — were effectively policed.

The UN recommendations came in a report on Australia handed down recently alongside reports on Serbia, Algeria, Jordan, Slovakia and Belarus.

The report was welcomed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and human rights groups, who called on the Turnbull Government to work with them in building a country that was free of racism and discrimination.

“Let’s work together to ensure the right approaches are taken to enable our people, and the generations to come, to enjoy life with dignity and equal rights and freedoms,” National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair Rod Little said.

Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs Minister Zed Seselja described the UN criticisms as “bizarre”.

The UN report followed harsh interim and final reports on the state of affairs in Australia earlier this year by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

In its latest report, the UN committee said it was concerned about expressions of racism in Australia “including in the public sphere and political debates as well as in the media”.

It said Indigenous people, Arab and Muslim migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and people of African and South Asian descent were particularly vulnerable to racism in the country.

In a series of recommendations, the UN committee said Australia:

  • Needed to ensure all anti-racism measures, including the National Anti-Racism Strategy which was launched in 2012, were properly funded.
  • Should increase its measures to combat racist hate speech and xenophobic political discussion and “ensure that public officials not only refrain from such speech but also formally reject and condemn hate speech”.
  • Ensure that Sections 18C and D of the Racial Discrimination Act were effectively applied by law officers.
  • Put an end to “racist hate speech in the print and electronic media”.

The UN committee asked the Australian Government to report back to it in detail in the future on the measures it would take to combat racial discrimination and racism.

It said it was concerned about the small number of racial discrimination cases brought before Australian courts.

Wendy Caccetta


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