Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Human Rights Council – 17th Session

Panel on strengthened international efforts to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of a culture of tolerance and peace at all levels, based on respect for human rights and diversity of religious beliefs

Statement by Australia

14 June 2011

Australia is pleased to participate in this panel discussion and strongly supports the promotion of dialogue and mutual understanding based on respect for human rights and diversity of religion or belief. The Australian Government encourages respect for people’s religious differences and the right of people of all religions to practice their religion without intimidation or harassment.

Australia believes that the most lasting and effective way to promote tolerance of different religious beliefs and assist in minimising discrimination on the basis of religion is through awareness raising and education. Education was also identified as key in a recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission entitled ‘Freedom of religion and belief in the 21st century’. The report found that there is strong support in the community for education about the religions, spiritualities and worldviews present in and affecting Australia.

Last year, the Government launched Australia’s Human Rights Framework, which contains a comprehensive suite of education initiatives, including the development of human rights education programs for primary and secondary schools, the community and for the Commonwealth public sector.

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians, issued by all Australian education ministers in December 2008, includes a commitment by all governments to support young Australians to become active and informed citizens, who appreciate Australia’s social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity.

The Government condemns discrimination in all its forms, including religious discrimination and vilification. Australian legislation contains a number of protections in relation to religious discrimination. For example, under the Fair Work Act's general protections, an employer must not take adverse action against a person who is an employee or prospective employee because of the person’s religion. The Act also provides that modern awards must not include terms that discriminate against an employee because of their religion.

Australia strongly condemns the urging of violence. Australia’s Criminal Code Act 1995 contains offences prohibiting urging a group or a person to use force or violence against a group or member of a group intending that force or violence will occur. Targeted groups are those distinguished by race, religion, nationality, national or ethnic origin or political opinion.

The Australian Government has announced a number of initiatives to support harmonious relationships between people of different cultures and religious backgrounds as part of Australia’s new multicultural policy. This policy confirms the Government’s unwavering commitment to a just, inclusive and socially cohesive society and complete opposition to all forms of racism, discrimination, intolerance and prejudice.

In December 2010, the Australian Government also established the Regional Interfaith Network. The Network hosts an online forum for interfaith discussion and is administered by a consortium of multicultural and religious community organisations.

We would be interested to learn from the panelists about best practice activities at the regional or domestic level that promote inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogues.