Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on Minority Issues

Statement by Australia
15 March 2011

Australia welcomes the report of the Independent Expert on minority issues.

Australia is a multicultural country with an estimated population of 22 million people, one quarter of whom were born overseas. As a nation we identify with more than 270 ancestries, and speak over 260 languages, including indigenous languages. Australian society values equality of opportunity, mutual respect, tolerance, fairness and the right to participate in the community free from discrimination or harassment.

Australia agrees that states have a responsibility to ensure that international cooperation not only reaches minority groups but empowers them to play an active role in development processes. In terms of Vietnam, one of the countries recently visited by the independent expert, Australia and other donors are working to support the Government’s program to reduce poverty in ethnic minority communities through over 12 000 small-scale infrastructure projects, including on roads, schools, health clinics, irrigation systems, water supply schemes and electricity lines. The program, which reaches almost 5000 of the poorest communes and villages, is also conducting over 2000 training courses to help commune authorities develop the skills needed to manage their commune’s development and is providing funding to over 200 000 poor students to encourage continued school attendance.

Australia notes the Independent Expert’s thematic study on the role of minority rights protection in promoting stability and conflict prevention. On 16 February 2011, the Australian Government released a new national multicultural policy, The People of Australia. The policy ensures that all people living in Australia are free to express and share their cultural and belief practices while also respecting the basic rights and responsibilities at the core of Australia’s democratic legal and institutional structures. Australia’s multicultural policy harnesses the benefits of cultural, linguistic and religious diversity which are integral components to our social and economic stability.

Australia looks forward to continuing its engagement with the Independent expert.