Australian Government must re-build trust of civil society – UN human rights expert

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, today called on the Government of Australia to urgently dispel civil society’s growing concerns about the combined ‘chilling effect’ of its recent laws, policies and actions constraining the rights of human rights defenders. Fitzroy Legal Service lawyer Meghan Fitzgerald was invited to meet with Mr Forst in Sydney last week along with representatives from a range of organisations.

Key points identified by Mr Forst include:

  • the particular vulnerability of environmental defenders, Indigenous defenders and whistleblowers in the immigration space, acknowledging that many potential whistleblowers will be silenced by the complexity of the laws, severity and scope of the penalty and extremely hostile approach by the government and media to whistleblowers;
  • that advocacy is not valued in Australia, and is seen ‘by the government and its officials as political opposition to the government’, despite the many benefits of it; and
  • the real damage being inflicted on peak bodies through funding cuts along with the impact of funding levers to silence organisations, including through clauses in funding agreements.

To read more, including Mr Forst’s full statement, go here.