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Review of Australia under the Convention Against Torture (CAT)
  Thursday 13 November 2014
Final Report from the Australian Civil Society Delegation

Dear ,
 
On Tuesday 11 November 2014, the Australian Civil Society Delegation (the Delegation) listened intently to the responses of the Australian government to the questions posed to them the day before by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT).
 
After the one and a half hour presentation by the government, the Committee posed more probing questions to the Australian government seeking clarifications, further information and statistics. 
 
The Committee was highly concerned at the Australian government’s suggestion that it is not responsible for or obliged to address violence against women, particularly domestic violence, as part of its commitment under the CAT.  
 
IMAGE: Delegation representatives of people with disability: L to R: Cashelle Dunn (WWDA), Scott Avery (FPDN), Ngila Bevan (PWDA), Paul Calcott (FPDN), Damian Griffis (FPDN), David Mainwaring (QAI), and Michelle O’Flynn (QAI).
Delegation representatives of people with disability: L to R: Cashelle Dunn (WWDA),
Scott Avery (FPDN), Ngila Bevan (PWDA),
Paul Calcott (FPDN), Damian Griffis (FPDN), David Mainwaring (QAI), and
Michelle O’Flynn (QAI).
The Committee pointed out the alarming figures in Australia, stating that 1 in 3 women experience physical violence in their lives and 1 in 5 experience sexual violence.  Ms Felice Gaer, Committee member from the USA, stated that this would make Australia the only country in the world which didn't have this obligation.

Ms Gaer also noted that there seemed to be other areas in which Australia seemed to think it did not have human rights obligations when it clearly did.  It was noted that marginalised groups such as women with disability and Aboriginal women are disproportionately affected by violence and that this remains inadequately addressed.

The Committee also asked multiple questions about Australia’s human rights framework, including whether the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights was merely an 'adornment' given its opinion that the compatibility of Australian legislation with international law isn't binding.

Prof. Grossman, the Committee Chair, was keen to highlight the significance of robust anti-discrimination laws as the existence of discrimination engages Article 1 and 16 of CAT.  For example, when people with disability experience violence as a result of discrimination, such as indefinite detention after being found unfit to plead at trail, this engages CAT and that violence many be considered to be ill-treatment.

It was apparent that the Committee was unimpressed at the reply from the Australian Government that the recent efforts to introduce a more robust human rights framework were abandoned for being 'too controversial', and that the new Government was not progressing these reforms in its policy platform. 

The Committee noted that people are born with rights because they are human. The Committee questioned the need for a referendum on recognition of Aboriginal people in the constitution when their rights already exist. The rights of Aboriginal people cannot be voted for, they just need to be recognised and this does not require a referendum. The Committee was obviously baffled as to why progress on this core human rights issue in Australia was so stiflingly slow.

Overall during the review process, there was frequent mention of disability issues particularly relating to violence against women with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability and young people with disability in detention.  The Delegation was very encouraged by this and hope that the Committee recognises these intersections in its concluding recommendations.

The concluding recommendations are due in the week beginning 24 November.  A overview of the CAT review of Australia is available on the UN websiteThe recorded webcasts of the event can be viewed here.

A number of factsheets were prepared for the Delegation by Women With Disabilities Australia:
More information about the Delegation is available here.
 
 
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