Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Michael Jeffery
Head of government: John Howard
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified

Violence against women and low rates of prosecution, and in remote communities a lack of support services for Indigenous women were serious concerns. New counter-terrorism measures posed a threat to human rights. Harsh new legislation against asylum-seekers was rejected. Hundreds of refugees remained in limbo under the Temporary Protection Visas system.

Indigenous people

In May, a report by the Crown Prosecutor for Central Australia exposed numerous cases of sexual abuse and violence against women and children in remote Indigenous communities. The report revealed a lack of support services available for Indigenous women in remote communities and a lack of appropriate action by the authorities.

During a visit to Australia in August, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing expressed concern at poor housing conditions in Indigenous communities.

In September an inquest found that a police officer was responsible for the death in custody of Mulrunji Domadgee, an Indigenous man from Palm Island, in 2004.

Violence against women

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concern about the high level of violence against women, and the low rates of prosecution and convictions in sexual assault cases. The Committee was also concerned about the continued violence and discrimination faced by women in Indigenous, refugee and migrant communities. There were concerns about the lack of appropriate action against the trafficking of women into Australia.

Human rights and security

Joseph "Jack" Thomas, who was charged with a terrorism-related offence, was subjected to the country's first Control Order, resulting in restrictions on his movement and his freedom to associate and communicate with others.

The Attorney General rejected recommendations by the Security Legislation Review Committee, including those to remove from the Attorney General the power to proscribe organizations as "terrorist" and to make this a judicial process.

Australian citizen David Hicks entered his fifth year in detention at Guantánamo Bay. The Australian government continued to support trial by the US Military Commission, which fell below international standards.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Forty-three asylum-seekers from the Indonesian province of Papua were recognized as refugees after arriving in Australia by boat in January. Under new legislation proposed by the government, all asylum-seekers without documentation arriving by sea would be processed in other locations in the Pacific Ocean, and those granted refugee status would be settled outside Australia. The bill was withdrawn by the Prime Minister due to lack of support.

In October, an inquiry by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that the Department of Immigration had not provided adequate care to an Iraqi woman after she had been held in an all-male compound in an immigration detention centre.

Approximately 1,100 refugees remained on three-year Temporary Protection Visas. In November the High Court ruled that refugees granted these visas were not entitled to further protection if, after three years, they were unable to prove the continued need for protection and if the government considered their country of origin to be safe.

AI country reports/visits


  • Australia: One step forward, two steps back – Amnesty International calls for an immediate halt to proposed legislation to punish asylum seekers arriving by boat (AI Index: ASA 12/002/2006)
  • Australia: "First things first" – Amnesty International Seeks Australia-Indonesia Declaration on Respect for Human Rights (AI Index: ASA 12/003/2006)
  • Australia: Open letter to Prime Minister John Howard calling for David Hicks to be brought home (AI Index: ASA 12/006/2006)

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