New laws restricted the right to peaceful protest in several states and territories. Discrimination against First Nations peoples continued. The rights of child detainees were violated. Australia accepted an offer by New Zealand to resettle refugees, but indefinite detention of asylum seekers continued. New carbon reduction targets were enshrined in legislation, but fell short of required levels.
Freedom of assembly
New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria adopted new laws carrying large fines and prison sentences for participating in unauthorized protests.
In August, police in New South Wales arrested 34 peaceful protesters and a legal observer at a demonstration in Sydney against government inaction on climate change. Twenty-one people were charged under the Roads and Crimes Legislation Amendment Act 2022 and faced a two-year prison sentence or a fine of up to AUD 22,000 (approximately USD 14,170) if convicted.
Indigenous peoples’ rights
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remained over represented in the adult prison population, despite targets to reduce the number of incarcerated First Nations people.
During the year, 21 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people died in custody.
The government proposed a constitutional amendment in September to establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, a body mandated to make representations directly to government on issues affecting First Nations peoples.
In September the UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia’s failure to adequately protect Indigenous Torres Strait Islanders against impacts from climate change violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interference with their private life, family and home.
Australia continued to detain children as young as 10. First Nations children, who represented 6% of the population aged 10 to 17, constituted 50% of those in youth detention.
In July, 17 boys held in Western Australia’s Banksia Hill Youth Detention Centre were transferred to the maximum-security adult Casuarina Prison. Incidents of self-harm among the transferred children were reported.1 Increased rates of self-harm among children detained in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory were also reported.
In August, allegations of sexual and physical abuse against children held at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in Tasmania emerged during an official investigation, prompting calls for the immediate closure of the facility.2
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
In March the government accepted New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees annually for the next three years. However, the practice of indefinite detention of refugees and asylum seekers offshore in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and in Australia, continued.
In July an Iranian-Kurdish refugee, Mostafa “Moz” Azimitabar, challenged the legality of his 15-month-long detention in hotels, dubbed by the government as “alternative places of detention”. A decision on the case was pending at the end of the year.3
Failure to tackle climate crisis
The Climate Change Act, adopted on 9 September, legislated for a 43% emissions reduction below 2005 levels by 2030. While this represented progress, it fell short of the figure needed to keep the rise in average global temperatures below 1.5˚C.
The government committed to increase financial support for countries in the region to mitigate the effects of climate change to AUD 2 billion (approximately USD 1.3 billion) for the period 2020-2025, but did not rejoin a global climate fund it had left in 2018.
- “Moving kids with complex needs to maximum security prison shameful”, 6 July
- “Australia: Amnesty International calls for the closure of Ashley Youth Detention Centre in light of the latest evidence of sexual abuse”, 19 August
- “Australia: Refugee Moz Azimitabar is taking the Australian government to court over its detention regime”, 13 July