Amnesty International takes no position on issues of sovereignty or territorial disputes. Borders on this map are based on UN Geospatial data.
Back to Australia

Australia 2023

Discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remained entrenched. Children as young as 10 were imprisoned. Thousands of refugees were able to apply for permanent residency, and indefinite detention of asylum seekers was found unlawful. New laws were adopted restricting the right to peaceful protest. New fossil fuel projects were approved.


In February, the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture cancelled plans to resume a visit to Australia, suspended in 2022, after failing to secure guarantees of unrestricted access to all detention facilities.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

On 14 October, Australians voted in a referendum against a constitutional amendment to establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander “Voice”, a body that would have been mandated to make representations directly to the parliament on issues affecting First Nations peoples.1

Twenty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reportedly died in custody.

Rates of detention of First Nations children declined, but they still represented over 50% of youth detainees. Rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults increased despite the target to reduce it by at least 15% by 2031.

Children’s rights

Children as young as 10 years old continued to be detained. In December, the Tasmanian government announced that the age of criminal responsibility in the state would be raised from 10 to 14 but not until 2029.2 The Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory raised the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years old, but this was still inconsistent with international standards that recommend a minimum age of at least 14 years.

The Queensland government overrode protections under the state’s Human Rights Act by adopting legislation making breach of bail of children a criminal offence and allowing children to be detained in adult police facilities.

A report of an official inspection into Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia found that “every element” of the youth detention facility was failing, putting the health and safety of detainees at risk. Boys transferred from Banksia Hill continued to be held in the maximum-security adult Casuarina Prison. On 19 October, a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy detained there died following a suicide attempt.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

In February, in a move affecting approximately 19,000 people, the immigration minister announced that people who arrived by boat before 2013 and were granted temporary protection visas would be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

In July, the Federal Court ruled in a case brought by Iranian-Kurdish refugee Mostafa “Moz” Azimitabar, challenging the legality of his 14-month-long detention in hotels, that it was lawful for the government to detain asylum seekers in “alternative places of detention” but it lacked humanity.

In November, a landmark High Court decision found indefinite immigration detention was unlawful and unconstitutional in cases where there is no real prospect of detainees being removed from Australia, leading to the release of at least 148 people.3 The government immediately passed emergency legislation imposing curfews on and requiring those released to wear tracking devices. In December, another law was passed enabling the Government to re-detain those released if they pose any risk of committing serious offences. Seven of those released were re-arrested.

The government maintained the policy of turning back boats carrying asylum seekers, or processing offshore those who arrive without a valid visa. In September, border forces transferred 11 asylum seekers to immigration detention centres in Nauru under these policies, marking the first such transfer in nine years.

Freedom of assembly

On 18 May, South Australia adopted a law providing for a three-month prison sentence or a fine of AUD 50,000 (approximately USD 31,000) for “intentionally or recklessly” obstructing a public place. Anti-protest laws were used in several states against peaceful climate protesters and those protesting in support of Palestinian rights.

Right to a healthy environment

The federal government strengthened the Safeguard Mechanism to limit emissions from Australia’s largest industrial polluters. In November, a treaty was signed with Tuvalu that includes provisions for migration pathways for those threatened by climate change and financial support for Tuvalu’s climate adaptation plans. However, the government continued to approve new fossil fuel projects.

  1. “Australia: Heartbreaking result as Voice referendum ‘No’ votes prevail”, 14 October
  2. “Australia: Safer future for Tasmanian children as age of criminal responsibility raised to 14 without exception”, 6 December
  3. “Australia: Amnesty International welcomes high court ruling of indefinite detention as unlawful and unconstitutional”, 9 November