Australia's Human Rights Record on Women 'Alarming' says UN

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the committee) has told the Australian Government it is failing to protect the human rights of Australian women and girls in many areas.   Kingsford Legal Centre law reform solicitors Maria Nawaz and Tess Deegan, who are in Geneva for a UN Committee review, said the UN’s scathing assessment is a fair reflection of the Australian government’s continued failure to uphold the human rights of diverse groups of women and girls in Australia.

UN expert Patricia Schultz grilled the Australian government over the lack of human rights protection stating that:  “You say you (Australia) are at the forefront of the protection of human rights internationally, but you are the only western democracy without a bill of rights…I see a contradiction.”
Kingsford Legal Centre solicitor Maria Nawaz agrees.  “Today, the UN experts directly asked the Australian government when they would introduce a charter of rights, and the Australian government delegation said they have no intention to do so.  “This is extremely disappointing and shows our government’s continued disregard for the fundamental rights of women and girls. The government can’t claim to be a leader on human rights internationally while violating women’s rights at home,” she said.  “The expert UN Committee drew from our shadow report, questioning the Australian government on barriers to women’s workforce participation, noting that levels of pregnancy discrimination were “sad and astonishing”, Ms Nawaz said. 

Tess Deegan, law reform solicitor form Kingsford Legal Centre, reported that clients presenting at the centre are experiencing:  “Endemic levels of discrimination, sexual harassment, and difficulty accessing flexible work arrangements. The Australian government should listen to the UN Committee and urgently implement changes to ensure women can exercise their right to work and fully participate in public life. The girls and women of Australia deserve so much better,” Ms Deegan said.

Kingsford Legal Centre coordinated the NGO shadow report about Australia’s women’s rights record with the National Association of Community Legal Centres, Community Legal Centres NSW, and Good Shepherd. The report’s findings show that human rights, including women’s rights, are not effectively protected under Australian law.
You can read the full report – Australia’s compliance with the Convention on the elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against women - on our website.

For further comment please contact:
Maria Nawaz on 0420 455 885 or or Dianne Anagnos on

Kingsford Legal Centre acknowledges the Gadigal and Bidjigal Clans, who traditionally occupied the Sydney Coast.
We respect those Elders, past and present, and thank them for allowing us to work and study on their lands