International Mechanisms

Australia is a state-party to several international human rights treaties and, therefore, has the obligation to comply with the provisions of such treaties. When Australia (federal or state/territory government or other authorities/employees working for the government) does not comply with these obligations, individuals might be able to make a complaint to a supervisory international body. When it comes to racial discrimination there are two bodies that are relevant, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

United Nations Human Rights Committee

The UN Human Rights Committee will receive complaints against state-parties that disrespect the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Regarding racial discrimination, the ICCPR states that all rights prescribed in the treaty must be applied by states-parties without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Therefore, if a person has been discriminated against by any state authority in Australia in the exercise of a convention right, they might be able make a complaint to the Human Rights Committee (note that the committee will not receive complaints against private individuals). However, in order to submit a complaint to the committee, the person has to first exhaust all domestic remedies, that is, try to solve the issue by all means available in the country, and only if a solution cannot be found through all available national mechanisms can the person make a complaint to the committee.

You can learn more about the procedure for complaints by individuals under the human rights treaties here and download the complaint form here.

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination will receive complaints against state-parties that disrespect the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. According to the Convention, racial discrimination means any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

Therefore, if a person has been discriminated against by any state authority in Australia (in accordance with the convention definition of discrimination), they might be able make a complaint to the committee (note that the committee will not receive complaints against private individuals). However, in order to submit a complaint, the person has to first exhaust all domestic remedies, that is, try to solve the issue by all means available in the country, and only if a solution cannot be found through all available national mechanisms can the person make a complaint to the committee.

You can learn more about the procedure for complaints by individuals under the human rights treaties here and download the complaint form here.

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