The United Nation‘s Universal Period Review Working Group has slammed Australia in its review of our human rights.
UN Members pushed Australia to genuinely consult with First Nations organisations on issues such as:
- Constitutional recognition,
- a Voice to Parliament,
- codifying the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and
- and justice reform.
Co-Chair of NATSILS Priscilla Atkins emphasised the Governments responsibility in taking the review on board.
“The Universal Periodic Review is a critical opportunity for the Australian Government to reimagine the justice system and commit to ending the over-incarceration and deaths in custody of our people, including raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 and implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, 30 years on from it being handed down. The world is watching,” she said.
The working group reviews the human rights records of all 193 Member States. Reviews re-occur every few years.
Raise the Age of criminal responsibility
Germany wants to know why Australia has delayed a push to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years.
Australia’s youth justice and age of criminal responsibility was a strong focus for scrutiny in the review, with roughly 31 UN member states recommending raising the age.
Currently, the age of criminal responsibility in Australia is 10 years old, far behind the rest of the world.
Treatment of First Nations people
Sweden and Uruguay submitted questions in advance to the review over the overrepresentation of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons.
“It is embarrassing for Australia that five years since the last Universal Periodic Review, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain the most incarcerated people on earth. With over 441 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991, the death penalty has never ended for our people,” Priscilla Atkins stated.
The working group repeatedly brought up the treatment of First Nations people, with Azerbaijan recognising that “racism towards Indigenous people is deep rooted.”
Belarus raised concerns that Australia is “dodging it’s obligations to Indigenous people.” El Salvador urged Australia to “step up your action to promote the Human Rights of Indigenous people.”
The Government noted that deaths in custody and reducing young Indigenous people in prison were key concerns. However, the Government suggested that raising the age of criminal responsibility was a state and territory issue. Also it said that the doctrine of doli incapax protected children under 14 in the justice system, with the Council of Attorney Generals’ Working Group looking into the issue.
CEO of Community Legal Centres (CLCs) Australia Nassim Arrage urged the Government to heed the advice of the UN working group.
“CLCs Australia calls on the Australian government to continue to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander human rights defenders and communities in meaningful conversations and processes about human rights. We also join other voices calling for ending systematic human rights violations against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Urgent actions must include the elimination of mass imprisonment, accountability for racist policing and raising the age of legal responsibility,” he said.
O’Brien Solicitors urges the Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility and urgently address the over-incarceration of First Nations people.