Bishop Reflects on Social Justice on Human Rights Day

Today is International Human Rights Day, with this year’s theme “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always” focusing on the four freedoms that underpin the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) has this morning released the following message, reflecting on the undermining of human rights and the continued detention of asylum seekers in Australia. This Human Rights Day, Australia must take stock of its human rights performance, according to Bishop Vincent Long. The Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council says, There are certain groups in Australia and in our region whose rights have been undermined – often over many years.

“The First Peoples of Australia continue to be over-represented on almost every indicator of disadvantage. News that little or no progress has been made on key ‘Closing the Gap’ targets of life expectancy, literacy, numeracy and employment is an indictment on our society. Warnings by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner show that governments are failing to properly consult and gain free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous communities before imposing measures like the compulsory Healthy Welfare Card or plans to close remote communities.

“Australia’s continued detention of asylum seekers in the offshore immigration facilities of Manus Island and Nauru is an unfolding human rights disaster. Numerous reports, including those of Federal Parliament, continue to reveal instances of child abuse, rape, violence and inhumane treatment. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently expressed his concern over conditions in these centres and called for Australia to reconsider its military-style Operation Sovereign Borders. It is time for Australia to “think again” in its treatment of asylum seekers,” said Bishop Long.

In September this year, Bishop Bill Wright of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, reflected on social justice and the world’s witnessing the greatest displacement of people since World War II.

"Our country's approach to asylum seekers and refugees has consistently been a key policy item in election campaigns since 2001, which sadly has seen the introduction of tough deterrent measures rather than compassion and welcome,” said Bishop Wright.

"Our government's apposite announcement to resettle an additional 12,000 Syrian refugees and provide extra financial assistance on the same day the ACBC launched its Social Justice Statement gives me hope that Australia can have a change of heart and welcome those who've come across the seas.”

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Alyssa Faith

Alyssa Faith is the Communications Manager for the Catholic Schools Office and regular contributor to Aurora and mnnews.today.