AUSTRALIA
Commonwealth of Australia
Commonwealth of Australia
Joined United Nations:  1 November 1945
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Click here
Updated 01 August 2012
CAPITAL
POPULATION
CHIEF OF STATE
SELECTION PROCESS
Canberra
22,015,576 (July 2011 est.)
Elizabeth II
Queen of Australia and United Kingdom
since 6 February 1952
The monarch is hereditary and holds that position for life or until
abdication. The Governor General is selected by the Queen on
the recommendation of the Prime Minister

Next scheduled election: None
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
SELECTION PROCESS
Julia Gillard
Prime Minister since 24 June 2010
Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or
leader of a majority coalition is sworn in as prime minister by the
governor general; last election held 21 August 2010


Next scheduled election: 3
0 November 2013
DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
ETHNIC GROUPS
Caucasian 92%, Asian 7%, aboriginal and other 1%
RELIGIONS
Protestant 27.4% (Anglican 18.7%, Uniting Church 5.7%, Presbyterian and Reformed 3%), Catholic 25.8%,
Eastern Orthodox 2.7%, other Christian 7.9%, Buddhist 2.1%, Muslim 1.7%, other 2.4%, unspecified 11.3%, none
18.7% (2006 Census)
GOVERNMENT
STRUCTURE
Federal parliamentary democracy with 6 states and 2 territories. Legal system is based on English common law; accepts
compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Executive:  Monarch represented by Governor General; Prime Minister selected by  Governor General as leader of
majority part or coalition
Legislative: Bicameral Federal Parliament consists of the Senate (76 seats - 12 from each of the six states and 2 from
each of the two mainland territories; one-half of state members are elected every three years by popular vote to serve
six-year terms while all territory members are elected every three years) and the House of Representatives (150 seats;
members elected by popular preferential voting to serve terms of up to three-years; no state can have fewer than 5
representatives)
elections: Senate - last held on 21 August 2010; House of Representatives - last held on 21 August 2010 (the latest a
simultaneous half-Senate and House of Representative elections can be held is 30 November 2013)
Judicial: High Court (the chief justice and six other justices are appointed by the governor general)
LANGUAGES
English 78.5%, Chinese 2.5%, Italian 1.6%, Greek 1.3%, Arabic 1.2%, Vietnamese 1%, other 8.2%, unspecified
5.7% (2006 Census)
BRIEF HISTORY
It is believed that first human migration to Australia was achieved when this landmass formed part of the Sahul continent,
connected to the island of New Guinea via a land bridge. It is also possible that people came by boat across the Timor
Sea. The exact timing of the arrival of the ancestors of the Indigenous Australians has been a matter of dispute among
archaeologists. The most generally accepted date for first arrival is between 40,000 - 50,000 years BP.  Humans reached
Tasmania approximately 40,000 years ago by migrating across a land bridge from the mainland that existed during the last
ice age. After the seas rose about 12,000 years ago and covered the land bridge, the inhabitants there were isolated from
the mainland until the arrival of European settlers. At the time of first European contact, it is estimated that between
250,000 and 1 million people lived in Australia. Records of the discovery of the Australian continent by European
expeditions date back to the early 17th century. The first known sighting was in 1606 by the Dutch navigator Willem
Janszoon, while some have argued that Portuguese navigators may have discovered Australia in the 16th century , but
there is no firm evidence to support this theory. Other 17th century European voyagers (predominantly Dutch, but also
French and English) were to follow suit, and by the start of the 18th century the western and northern coastlines of what
had become known as "New Holland" had been charted. No attempts to establish settlements were made, however. In
1770, the expedition of the Endeavour under command of British Royal Navy Lieutenant James Cook navigated and
charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on April 29, 1770. Cook continued northwards,
and before leaving put ashore on Possession Island in the Torres Strait off Cape York on August 22, 1770. Here he
formally claimed the eastern coastline he had discovered for the Crown, naming it New South Wales. The British Crown
Colony of New South Wales started with the establishment of a settlement and penal colony at Port Jackson by Captain
Arthur Phillip on 26 January 1788.  New Zealand was part of New South Wales until 1840 when it became a colony.
The transportation of convicts to Australia was phased out between 1840 and 1868. On 1 January 1901, federation of
the colonies was achieved after a decade of planning, consultation and voting, and the Commonwealth of Australia was
born, as a Dominion of the British Empire. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) was formed from New South Wales in
1911 to provide a location for the proposed new federal capital of Canberra (Melbourne was the capital from 1901 to
1927).  Australian troops took part in both world wars. Since World War II Australia has been transformed by a massive
immigration programme, and since the 1970s and the abolition of the White Australia policy from Asia and other parts of
the world; radically transforming Australia's demography, culture and image of itself. Since 1951, Australia has been a
formal military ally of the US under the auspices of the ANZUS treaty. The final constitutional ties between Australia and
Britain ended in 1986 with the passing of the Australia Act 1986, ending any British role in the Australian States, and
ending judicial appeals to the UK Privy Council. Australia remains a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II the
Queen of Australia; the 1999 referendum to establish a republic was marginally rejected. Australia's links to its British past
are increasingly tenuous.
After the terrorist attacks against the United States (US) on 11 September 2001, Australia joined
the US-led International Coalition against Terrorism by committing to Coalition operations in Afghanistan—the US-led
action is known as Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF–A). On 14 September 2001, the Australian Government cited the
terrorist attacks against the US as sufficient basis for invoking the mutual-defence clauses of the ANZUS Treaty. The
Labor Party's Kevin Rudd defeated Howard at the 2007 election, and held the office until June 2010, when he was
replaced as the leader of the party by his colleague Julia Gillard. Rudd used his term in office to symbolically ratify the
Kyoto Protocol and lead an historic parliamentary apology to the Stolen Generation (those Indigenous Australians who
had been removed from their parents by the state during the early 20th century to the 1960s). Rudd's successor, Julia
Gillard, became the first woman to be elected Prime Minister of Australia when, in 2010, she led the Labor Party to a
narrow victory against the Liberal-National Coalition of Tony Abbott, resulting in the first hung parliament in Australia
since the 1940 election.

Sources   Wikipedia: Indigenous Australians;   Wikipedia: Australia History;
ECONOMIC OVERVIEW
Australia's abundant and diverse natural resources attract high levels of foreign investment and include extensive
reserves of coal, iron ore, copper, gold, natural gas, uranium, and renewable energy sources. A series of major
investments, such as the US$40 billion Gorgon Liquid Natural Gas project, will significantly expand the resources
sector. Australia also has a large services sector and is a significant exporter of natural resources, energy, and food.
Key tenets of Australia's trade policy include support for open trade and the successful culmination of the Doha Round
of multilateral trade negotiations, particularly for agriculture and services. The Australian economy grew for 17
consecutive years before the global financial crisis. Subsequently, the Rudd government introduced a fiscal stimulus
package worth over US$50 billion to offset the effect of the slowing world economy, while the Reserve Bank of
Australia cut interest rates to historic lows. These policies - and continued demand for commodities, especially from
China - helped the Australian economy rebound after just one quarter of negative growth. The economy grew by 1.5%
during the first three quarters of 2009 - the best performance in the OECD. Unemployment, originally expected to
reach 8-10%, peaked at 5.8% in late 2009 and fell to 5.3% by February 2010. As a result of an improved economy,
the budget deficit is expected to peak below 4.7% of GDP and the government could return to budget surpluses as
early as 2015. The Australian financial system remained resilient throughout the financial crisis and Australian banks
have rebounded. Australia was one of the first advanced economies to raise interest rates - three times since October
2009 - and the government removed the wholesale funding guarantee for financial institutions in March 2010. During
2010, the government will focus on raising Australia's economic productivity, managing the symbiotic, but sometimes
tense, economic relationship with China, passing emissions trading legislation, and dealing with other climate-related
issues such as drought and devastating bushfires. Australia is engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and ongoing
free trade agreement negotiations with China and Japan.
The GILLARD government is focused on raising Australia''s
economic productivity to ensure the sustainability of growth, and continues to manage the symbiotic, but sometimes
tense, economic relationship with China. Australia is engaged in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks and ongoing free
trade agreement negotiations with China, Japan, and Korea.

Source: CIA World Factbook (select Australia)
POLITICAL CLIMATE
The Australian Labor Party came to power in the November 2007 election, ending John Howard's 11 years in office as Prime
Minister and head of Liberal/National coalition government. The Labor Party now holds a majority in the House of
Representatives. The Senate, however, reverted to its prior state, with the balance of power being held by minor parties.

Whether Australia's political system should be characterised as a 'two-party system' is a matter of debate, and can be
said to vary to some degree from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Of Australia's three main parties, two (Liberal and
National) are in long-standing coalition at the national level – however they are not always in coalition at the state level,
and the Liberal Party is not always the senior partner (the National Party predominates in the state of Queensland).
However, as the National Party only ever considers a coalition or similar arrangement with one of the other two parties
(ie. Liberal),the system might be regarded as a two-party one in terms of choices of government, even though voters in
some electorates may have a choice between three candidates with realistic chances of being elected to office.

Despite the entrenched role of formal parties in Australian politics, they are 'almost totally extra-legal and extra-
constitutional'.In contrast to some other countries, such as the United States, Australian political parties and their
internal operations are relatively unregulated. There is however a system of party registration through the Australian
Electoral Commission and its state and territory equivalents, including reporting of some aspects of party activities,
principally the receipt of major donations.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Australia
INTERNATIONAL
DISPUTES
In 2007 Australia and Timor-Leste sign 50-year development zone and revenue sharing agreement in lieu of a maritime
boundary; dispute with Timor-Leste hampers creation of a revised maritime boundary with Indonesia in the Timor Sea;
regional states continue to express concern over Australia's 2004 declaration of a 1,000-nautical mile-wide maritime
identification zone; Australia asserts land and maritime claims to Antarctica; in 2004 Australia submitted its claims to
Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to extend its continental margins covering over 3.37 million
square kilometers, expanding its seabed roughly 30 percent more than its claimed exclusive economic zone; since
2003, Australia has led the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) to maintain civil and political
order and reinforce regional security
. Indonesian groups challenge Australia's claim to Ashmore Reef; Australia closed
parts of the Ashmore and Cartier reserve to Indonesian traditional fishing
U.S. State Department
United Nations Human
Rights Council
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
Freedom House
REFUGEES AND
INTERNALLY
DISPLACED PERSONS
(IDP)
None reported.
ILLICIT DRUGS
Tasmania is one of the world's major suppliers of licit opiate products; government maintains strict controls over areas
of opium poppy cultivation and output of poppy straw concentrate; major consumer of cocaine and amphetamines
Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission
U. S. STATE
DEPARTMENT
HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
2011 Human Rights Reports: Australia
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
20
11 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May
25, 2012

Australia is a constitutional democracy with a freely elected federal parliamentary government. In free and fair federal parliamentary
elections held in August 2010, neither the Australian Labor Party (ALP) nor the opposition Liberal Party and National Party coalition
won enough seats to form a government. Subsequently, the ALP secured the support of the Greens Party member of Parliament
(MP) and three independent MPs to gain a majority of 76 seats in the 150-seat House of Representatives and formed a government
with Julia Gillard as prime minister. Security forces reported to civilian authorities.

There were no widespread human rights violations, although problems were reported in a few areas. The principal problem areas
included domestic violence against women and children, particularly in indigenous communities; discrimination against indigenous
people; and lengthy detention of some asylum seekers.

Other concerns included a high-profile press freedom case involving a newspaper columnist found guilty of violating an
antidiscrimination law in two published columns.

The government took steps to prosecute officials accused of abuses, and ombudsmen, human rights bodies, and internal
government mechanisms responded effectively to complaints.
Click here to read more »
UNITED NATIONS
HUMAN RIGHTS
COUNCIL
19 June 2012
Committee on the Rights of the Child
Sixtieth session
29 May–15 June 2012
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention
Concluding observations: Australia

I. Introduction
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the State party‟s fourth periodic report (CRC/C/AUS/4), submitted in accordance
with the reporting guidelines of the Committee, as well as the written replies to its list of issues (CRC/C/AUS/Q/4/Add.1). The
Committee appreciates the constructive dialogue with the State party‟s multisectoral delegation.

II. Follow-up measures undertaken and progress achieved by the State party
4. The Committee welcomes as positive the adoption of the following legislative measures:
(a) The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011, which requires all the State party‟s legislation to be subject to a
compatibility assessment, with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the seven core international human rights
instruments Australia is party, prior to them being passed;
(b) The Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 (Cth), which prioritizes the safety of
children in the family law system
while continuing to promote a child‟s right to have a meaningful relationship with both parents
when this is safe;


III. Main areas of concern and recommendations
A. General measures of implementation (arts. 4, 42 and 44, para. 6, of the Convention)
The Committee‟s previous recommendations
7. While welcoming the State party‟s efforts to implement the concluding observations on its previous report (CRC/C/15/Add.268),
it is concerned that some of the recommendations contained therein have not been fully addressed.
8. The Committee urges the State party to take all necessary measures to effectively address the recommendations contained in the
concluding observations on the combined second and third periodic report that have yet to be implemented, particularly those on
the reservation to article 37(c) of the Convention, legislation, coordination, respect for views of the child, freedom of association,
corporal punishment, and the administration of juvenile justice.
Click here to read more »
FREEDOM HOUSE
Freedom In The World Report- 2012
Australia
Political Rights Score: 1
Civil Liberties Score: 1
Status: Free

Overview
The Australian government continued in 2011 to struggle with an influx of asylum seekers, mostly from South Asia, and violent
outbreaks at detention centers. In August, the High Court ruled against a controversial plan to exchange asylum seekers in Australia
for refugees in Malaysia. In late 2011, parliament passed a controversial package of bills that would introduce a tax on some carbon
dioxide emissions.


In response to the continuing issue of asylum seekers, the new Labor government negotiated an agreement with Afghanistan in
January 2011 for the involuntary repatriation of Afghans who fail to meet refugee criteria; however, the government had yet to
carry out any such repatriations by year’s end. Six months later, the Australian government announced an agreement to send 800
asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for receiving 4,000 refugees from Malaysia for permanent resettlement over the next four
years. While authorities said the plan was intended to deter the smuggling of asylum seekers to Australia, the High Court ruled in
August that it was unlawful on the grounds that Malaysia does not offer adequate refugee protection. The government dropped the
plan in October. Also in 2011, asylum seekers at the Christmas Island detention facility turned to violence, suicide, and hunger
strikes to voice their discontent with living conditions at the center and the pace of processing their applications. In March and
July, asylum seekers on Christmas Island clashed with security personnel and burned buildings.

In October and November, the House and the Senate, respectively, passed a controversial package of bills that would introduce a
tax on some carbon dioxide emissions, in an effort to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Under the bills, Australia’s
top 500 carbon emitters—including companies in the lucrative energy and mining sectors—would be hit by the tax starting on July
1, 2012. In 2015, the tax would be replaced with an emissions permit trading system. The bills drew strong protests from industry,
the Liberal Party, and the public due to concerns about its effect on the economy and jobs.

Australia is an electoral democracy. A governor general, who is appointed on the recommendation of the prime minister, represents
the British monarch as head of state. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party or coalition in Parliament.

Voting is compulsory, and citizens participate in free and fair multiparty elections to choose representatives for the bicameral
Parliament. The Senate, the upper house, has 76 seats, with 12 senators from each of the six states and two from each of the two
mainland territories. Half of the state members, who serve six-year terms, are up for election every three years; all territory
members are elected every three years. The House of Representatives, the lower house, has 150 seats. All members are elected by
popular preferential voting to serve three-year terms, and no state can have fewer than five representatives.

Click here to read more »
AMNESTY
INTERNATIONAL
23 February 2012
Australia: Indefinite detention harms asylum seekers’ mental health

Australia’s policy of placing asylum seekers in indefinite detention is traumatizing innocent people and jeopardizing their mental
health, Amnesty International said after visiting some of the country’s most remote detention centres.

Following a 13-day fact-finding mission this month to detention centres on Christmas Island off the southern coast and in three
cities on the mainland, the organization has once again found the asylum policy to be flawed and in contravention of Australia’s
human rights obligations.

“After speaking with many asylum seekers who have suffered damage to their mental health because of this system, it is clear to us
that the Australian government has to change this policy, as a matter of law as well as simple morality,” said Dr Graham Thom, a
refugee spokesman at Amnesty International.

“Across every facility we visited what was evident was the stress caused by prolonged detention and the uncertainty which
continues to traumatize innocent people who are still waiting behind fences.”

Amnesty International found that some of the centres – including Northwest Point on Christmas Island and the new Wickham Point
centre in the northern city of Darwin – unnecessarily look and feel like prisons. The high-security compounds of Christmas Island,
which house hundreds of men who have committed no crime, are particularly grim environments.

In the centres on Christmas Island and the north-western city of Curtin, the harsh and isolated environments make it difficult to
provide basic services and supplies like medical attention, communications and access to support networks.

Asylum seekers repeatedly told Amnesty International that they suffer from the negative mental health impact of long-term
detention despite efforts made to improve the facilities’ physical environments.

“There was a striking contrast between men we met who had only been detained for a few months describing the trauma
experienced in their home countries, compared with the men who had been held for up to three years telling us of the trauma
caused by their detention,” said Graham Thom.
Click here to read more »
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Australia: Urge Human Rights Improvements in Vietnam
Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue Scheduled for April 26-27 in Hanoi
April 25, 2012

(New York) – Australia should urge Vietnam to release all political prisoners and to end restrictions on the freedoms of expression,
association, peaceful assembly, belief, and religion when the two sides meet for their annual bilateral human rights dialogue in Hanoi
on April 26-27, 2012, Human Rights Watch said today in a 16-page memo submitted to Australia.

During the first quarter of 2012 alone, Vietnam sent at least 12 people to prison for exercising these rights peacefully. This follows
the imprisonment of at least 33 rights activists and internet bloggers who were convicted in 2011 for simply expressing their
political and religious beliefs.

“Vietnam has mastered the practice of harassing, arresting, and charging activists brave enough to speak their minds with vaguely
worded national security crimes that carry severe penalties,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Australia should call out the Vietnam authorities on their farcical claims that they don’t have any political prisoners, because all
those convicted have violated these rights-abusing laws.”

Australian officials should urge Vietnam to amend or repeal provisions in the penal code, the Ordinance on Religion, Ordinance 44
on Handling of Administrative Violations, and other domestic laws that criminalize peaceful dissent and certain religious activities in
contravention of Vietnam’s obligations as a state that has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
In particular, Australia should press for revocation or amendment of “national security” crimes, including penal code articles 79
(“subversion of people’s administration”), 87 (“undermining the unity policy”), 88 (“propaganda against the state”), 89 (“disrupting
security”), 91 (“fleeing or staying abroad to oppose the people’s government”), 92 (“supplemental punishment” to strip citizen
rights), and 258 (“abusing democratic freedoms to infringe on the interests of the state”).

Human Rights Watch pointed out that in practice, those who form or join any political party in serious opposition to the Communist
Party of Vietnam can be accused of “subversion of the people’s administration” while those unwilling to conform to state-
controlled religious organizations are frequently prosecuted for “undermining the unity policy.” Activists who write pro-democracy
articles and anti-government commentaries and give interviews with foreign-based radio stations such as Radio Free Asia (RFA),
Voice of America (VOA), and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are often held for “conducting propaganda against the state.”


Workers or land protesters who organize public protests or wild-cat strikes are more likely to be accused of “disrupting security.”
Rights activists who try to flee Vietnam, or go overseas to conduct training and then return to Vietnam, can be accused upon arrest
of “fleeing abroad or staying abroad to oppose the people’s government.” Religious activists, land rights petitioners, or anti-
corruption campaigners are also prosecuted for “abusing democratic freedoms” to “infringe upon the interests of the State.”

Click here to read more »
OFFICIAL
GOVERNMENT HUMAN
RIGHTS STATEMENT
UNITED NATIONS ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
27 July 2012
Advancement of women
Agenda items 7(d) Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system;
and
Agenda item 14(a) Advancement of women

Mr President

As we said at the time, Australia deeply regrets that the Commission was unable to adopt Agreed Conclusions this year –
particularly when the priority theme addressed rural women who are amongst the world’s most vulnerable. This outcome did not
do justice to the considerable efforts made over many months and even years by the UN, Member States, NGOs, UN Women and
the CSW Bureau to raising awareness of the unique disadvantages faced by rural women. Above all it was a disservice to the
hundreds of rural women – many of whom who had to overcome enormous challenges, including financial costs, distance, and
time away from work and family, to participate at CSW, and who brought with them the hopes of rural women everywhere.

Rural women face particular challenges and pressures, and often suffer the compounding effects of multiple disadvantage. Global
efforts are needed to empower rural women and girls to enable them to achieve economic security and development, education and
training, to increase their participation in decision-making and leadership, and to live in safe and sustainable environments.

It is very important that we do not let the lack of Agreed Conclusions from CSW affect our commitment to promoting awareness
and understanding of issues facing rural women, and to keep moving ahead on these issues, including by ensuring that decision-
makers give greater consideration to gender issues in policy development, program design and implementation. We were pleased
that the discriminatory barriers faced by rural women and other women in situations of vulnerability was highlighted in Ms Bachelet’
s ‘Call to Action’ issued in the margins of the Rio +20 UN sustainable development conference. Our Prime Minister Julia Gillard
was an original signatory of this landmark document
.

There is much still to be done to ensure the effectiveness of gender mainstreaming within the UN system. The upcoming
consideration by the General Assembly of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review will provide Member States with a real
opportunity to institutionalise further changes in these areas, particularly with regards to monitoring and evaluation, and results-
based management. Australia looks forward to working constructively with all Member States to build a strong consensus on this.

Click here to read more »
COMMONWEALTH
OMBUDSMAN
23 Apr 2012:
DIAC to rethink detainee transfer processes

An Ombudsman investigation into the transfer of 22 detainees to the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at Silverwater
during the April 2011 riots at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre has prompted the Department of Immigration and Citizenship
(DIAC) to review its processes.

Acting Deputy Ombudsman George Masri today said the investigation had found deficiencies in the way in which detainees were
notified about their transfer to Silverwater, the records kept by DIAC and the follow up with detainees after their transfer.

‘DIAC did not follow its own procedures in relation to the transfers either during or after the incidents at Villawood on 20 and 21
April last year,’ Mr Masri said.

‘Notwithstanding the operational demands at the time, once the physical threat to staff and detainees had passed, DIAC had an
obligation to ensure that all procedural and administrative requirements were met.

‘This did not happen.’

Mr Masri said that DIAC had not appropriately informed the detainees about why they had been transferred to Silverwater and had
delayed notifying the detainees’ migration agents. There were also considerable gaps in DIAC’s records regarding these transfers.

‘DIAC’s own procedures require it to keep comprehensive records about the welfare of a person in immigration detention who has
been transferred to a correctional facility but, when asked, the department was not able to produce any relevant records,’ he said.

‘Nor did DIAC fully comply with its mandated requirement to visit a detainee in a correctional institution within 24 hours of arrival
at the institution and to contact them weekly thereafter, either in person or by telephone.

‘The first visit did not take place until six days after the detainees were transferred and only one or two more visits in person
occurred 11 or 12 days later. There is no evidence of weekly contact being made during the period the detainees were held at
Silverwater.’
Click here to read more »
HUMAN RIGHTS AND
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
COMMISSION
Tuesday 31 July 2012
Racism at the Olympics
By Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke

Australian athlete John Steffensen is extroverted and passionate about his sport, and is known for the antics that he brings to the
running track.

When he is running well we love this show of confidence and playfulness, verging on arrogance.

Yet his latest allegations of racism and racist attitudes shown to him during the 2008 Beijing Olympics has left many people
questioning his motives.

Steffensen was passed over for the individual 400 metres event in London in favour of 19-year-old Olympic debutant Steve
Solomon.

Neither runner had achieved the A- standard time needed to qualify, but officials used their discretionary pick to nominate Solomon
for the race.

That decision left Steffensen fuming.

He blasted the selection process, brought up the Beijing incident and implied that racism had played a role in the decision to select
Solomon.

The Australian Olympic Committee will no doubt be forced to address the allegations made by Steffensen.

But his story raises some serious issues about both the experience and the perception of racism.

According to a recent study by VicHealth, the experience of race-based discrimination can contribute to poor health outcomes.

This stands to reason.

If I am going to be treated differently simply on the basis of where I was born, or the colour of my skin, things that I cannot
control, then it is going to make me feel bad about myself.

If I am going to be judged not on my competencies or my actions, but because I am black or Asian or Indian, then it is going to
impact on my sense of what control I have to govern my own destiny.

Now in athletics there arguably are some objective measures to determine capacity and competency.

In the case of Steffensen, it can be argued that while none of the team achieved the A-rating required for automatic selection,
Solomon’s form was consistently better than Steffensen’s.


What’s not clear is how much of an impact the allegations of racism has impacted on Steffensen’s attitude and his performance, if
indeed these allegations are true.

Australian team captain Steve Hooker has weighed into the issue, saying ''that is stuff from the past and unfortunately John is still
carrying that around with him and still has an issue with it.”

It seems fair to say we should not underestimate the impact that the experience of racism can have on the behavior of people, even
elite athletes.

Click here to read more »
Represented by
Quentin Bryce
Governor General since 05 September 2008
Click map for larger view
Click flag for Country Report
TRAFFICKING IN
PERSONS
None reported.
Wayne Maxwell Swan
Deputy Prime Minister
since 24 June 2010