“The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the deterioration in Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, ethnic minority communities, refugees and people seeking asylum. It has warned that “expressions of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia, including in the public sphere and political debates as well as the media, are on the rise” and has urged the Australian Government to “Bring every person held offshore to safety in Australia; Respect the self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; Invest in anti-racism measures and appropriate services for people from ethnic minority communities; and Reform youth justice systems around Australia and raise the age of criminal responsibility.”

“These findings are a timely reminder for all Australians to reflect on Human Rights in Australia and globally and do all they can to address the violations of such Rights. As a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council “Australia has a moral and ethical responsibility to set an example by addressing human rights abuses and systemic discrimination within Australia and our Council calls upon the Federal, State and Territory governments to set an example by doing all they can to address the aforementioned findings”, said Ethnic Communities Council WA President, Ramdas Sankaran.

“Despite the divisive debate that accompanied the marriage equality postal survey we have good reason to celebrate, for we have finally legalised marriage between two people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation etc. Let’s hope we will soon also make religious vilification illegal in Australia,” he added.

“Human Rights are indivisible and Australians regardless of our gender, cultural, ethnic, faith or other backgrounds cannot cherry pick which human rights need protection and which can be violated or ignored. “There is no place for apathy or fatigue when it comes to the violation of Human Rights, be it in Australia or elsewhere in the world and systemic advocacy is critical in this regard”.

“On the occasion of this International Human Rights Day, our Council calls upon the Australian Government to follow the examples WA, Victorian and Tasmanian to swap Harmony Day for Harmony week. It is unconscionable that in the 21st Century, the federal government and the other state and territories continue to celebrate Harmony Day on 21st March, which the United Nations designates as the International Day for the elimination of Racial Discrimination to commemorate the Sharpeville Massacre”, said Mr. Sankaran.

“FECCA should do all it can to achieve this objective and not provide tacit support for its continuation by publicising Harmony Day on its website. Collaborating with governments is critical to bring about social change but is should not be at the cost of sustaining anachronistic abhorrent celebrations. It also has a moral and ethical obligation to speak out against mindless mainstreaming, epitomised by the recent federal government tender for the $3.9 million dollar Mental Health in Multicultural Australia project tender, which was restricted to just three agencies all of which were mainstream”.

“Our Council commends the initiative of our newest member organisation, Until We Return Vocal Group, which organised a Forum today to focus on the Human Rights abuses in Sudan and Eritrea. Economic benefits that can accrue to Australia, can’t compromise our stance on Human Rights” was an important issue that was raised at the Forum. Other important issues raised at the forum were about the importance of advocacy to address systemic discrimination and for ethnic minorities to become more aware and understanding of human rights and discrimination issues within the indigenous communities and other ethnic groups. We urge other member organisations to follow their example,” said Mr. Sankaran.

For media enquiries please contact Ramdas Sankaran on 0418275786 or Suresh Rajan on 0415369755.

Much to Celebrate but Sadly Much More to Fix