29 March 2011

29 March 2011

Representatives from Perth’s Aboriginal community attended a Roundtable discussion at the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA) yesterday (28 March 2011) to discuss the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, which commenced in 2006 to review the human rights records of the 192 members of the United Nations.

Australia’s own human rights record was reviewed on 27th January this year by an HRC Working Group which found that over thirty of the 145 recommendations for Australia referred directly to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Determined to be included in national UPR discussions, ALSWA’s Law and Advocacy Unit (LAA) facilitated and hosted the Roundtable, after lobbying the Government to have key interstate representatives visit WA to hear the human rights concerns directly from people in this state.

ALSWA Executive Officer and Acting CEO Mr. John Bedford welcomed everyone to the roundtable and was pleased that such diversity of community and organisational representatives were able to attend. Speaking after the meeting, he said: “Human Rights is such an important area which affects how we, as Aboriginal peoples, are treated in this country. It is vital that our concerns are heard and that we are valued for our contributions. I’m extremely pleased that ALSWA maintains such a strong stance in this area”.

At the Roundtable, the UPR process was discussed in detail by visiting guest speakers Rowan McRae (Senior Legal Officer Office of International Law Attorney-General’s Department),Darren Dick (Director, Policy and Programs, Australian Human Rights Commission) and Ben Schokman (Director, International Human Rights Advocacy Human Rights Law Resource Centre). Participants shared their individual views, which included the need for recognition of the right to self-determination, Cultural rights, Native Title reform and the high number of WA children in care and protection. ALSWA also contributed to the Roundtable by highlighting our human rights work and providing suggestions for practical steps to implement the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This meeting has ensured a WA voice and in-depth discussion about the HRC recommendations and highlighted the importance of Aboriginal involvement in the ongoing process.

*Submissions to the Attorney General’s Department are due by 31st March 2011 and the Government will respond to the HRC about which recommendations it will accept or reject before the next HRC session in June 2011. More information is available on ALSWA’s website.