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Australia's poor human rights scorecard revealed

Aaron Bloch -

The Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) tracker has again revealed Australia's poor results when it comes to Indigenous human rights and treatment.

Surveying experts and collating data analysis on civil, political, economic and social rights, the HRMI measures a nation's performance on all human rights covered by international law.

It found the majority of experts agreed Indigenous Australians had most of their human rights at risk.

Across the four key rights to education, food, health, and work, Australia averaged a 'bad' score of 78.85 per cent.

Fifty-seven per cent of experts surveyed identified a risk to education, 71 per cent identified a risk to health, and 61 per cent noted the right to housing was also at risk.

It was also identified that 71 per cent of experts believe Indigenous people are at risk of having their freedom from arbitrary arrest violated.

This lack of safety was particularly present in the freedom from torture for Indigenous people, which three-quarters of experts found to be in danger of not being recognised.

Whilst the poor results were not limited to Indigenous Australians, they were at a significantly higher risk of not having their human rights upheld.

"It's certainly true that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people with disabilities, people with low socioeconomic status, and refugees and asylum seekers are identified as being at risk of violations of nearly every right that we measure," HRMI strategy lead Thalia Kehoe Rowden told SBS News.

Rowden also suggested the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected human rights globally, including in Australia.

HRMI co-founder Anne-Marie Brook also told SBS News Australia's civil and political rights performance was "very disappointing, particularly since it could be so easily improved".

"I'm looking forward to the day when the Australian people â€" via their elected officials â€" decide to treat all people, including Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, and refugees and asylum seekers, with the dignity and respect that all people deserve," she said.

NIT questioned Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt on what he, his department, and the Federal Government were doing to rectify these results.

"In December 2020, Australia submitted its third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) national report to the United Nations Human Rights Council to review Australia's progress in protecting and promoting human rights," said the Minister.

"While it was reported to the UN in that report, the Australian Government had already acknowledged the need to do better to achieve the targets set under the Closing the Gap framework."

"In regards to Australia's Human Rights record, Australia has a significant, longstanding commitment to human rights," he said.

The Minister also discussed Australia's appearance in January this year before the UPR Working Group for an interactive dialogue.

"Australia received 344 recommendations from Member States and has prepared a response to each recommendation in consultation with the States and Territories," he said.

The Minister said this response will be formally adopted and made public by the United Nations Human Rights Council on July 8.

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the Government "lacks genuine commitment".

"After eight years, it's clear this Government lacks a genuine commitment to fundamentally address the disparity between First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians," she said.

"There is still no additional investment in frontline services associated with the refreshed closing the gap targets, despite this Government announcing them a year ago."

Ms Burney told NIT that Labor would operate differently to the current Government.

"Labor would invest in programs that work, build the evidence base and improve transparency so the community can have confidence that public investments are actually improving fundamental life outcomes for First Nations Australians."

By Aaron Bloch

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