Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein

Panel discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights through tolerance and reconciliation, by HE Mr Peter Woolcott, Permanent Representative, 28 September 2011.

Human Rights Council – 18th Session

Panel discussion on tolerance and reconciliation

28 September 2011

Australia was pleased to be one of the main sponsors of the decision calling for the convening of this panel. In doing so, we sought to draw inspiration and guidance from Nelson Mandela. We wanted to provide a platform to share examples of how the values of tolerance and reconciliation have been used by individuals to promote human rights and achieve transformative change in the societies in which they live. We warmly thank the panellists today for their stories that so clearly demonstrate the virtues of tolerance and forgiveness. We commend them for the role they have played in their communities.

The Australian Government particularly welcomes the participation of the Lieutenant Governor of South Australia, Mr. Hieu Van Le, as a panellist. Mr. Le’s steadfast commitment to the core values of inclusiveness and tolerance in Australian multiculturalism has been an inspiration to all Australians, particularly those who have arrived in our country as refugees.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring that all Australians have the opportunity to flourish in Australian society.

Firstly, this year the Australian Government launched The People of Australia, a new, strengthened multicultural policy reaffirming the Government’s unwavering support for a culturally diverse and socially cohesive nation. The policy contains initiatives such as the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy and the establishment of the Australian Multicultural Council. These initiatives complement the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program.

Secondly, the Australian Government understands the vital role anti-discrimination law plays in promoting and protecting the values of fairness, respect and dignity. The Government is consolidating the federal anti-discrimination laws into a single law, to make it easier for people to understand their rights and meet their obligations.

Thirdly, the Australian Government is committed to building mutual trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The National Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples was an important symbolic step. But there is much to do. The Government remains committed to building on the Apology with practical policies and outcomes, such as the ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy, and the establishment of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. These actions are providing a foundation for reconciliation, building mutually respectful relationships that allow us to work together in the best interests of all Australians.

I would like to congratulate the Government of the Cote d’Ivoire for its announcement of a Truth, Reconciliation and Dialogue Commission. This is an important decision and encapsulates much of what we are trying to do in promoting the principles of tolerance and reconciliation. The Commission is modelled on South Africa’s successful Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was instrumental in bringing about the transition of that country under the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

We would be interested to hear from panellists whether they can suggest any other best practice legislative or policy measures that, in their experience, can assist in building tolerant, inclusive societies.