Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Quentin Bryce
Head of government: Kevin Rudd
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
Population: 21.3 million
Life expectancy: 81.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 6/5 per 1,000

Indigenous people continued to be discriminated against throughout the Northern Territory. A change to immigration regulations meant that asylum-seekers could work while their applications are processed. The largest public consultation on human rights was completed in September. Recommendations included the establishment of a national Human Rights Act.


In 2007, the Australian government launched the Northern Territory Intervention in response to a report on sexual abuse in the Northern Territory. As part of the intervention, the Government suspended the Racial Discrimination Act and Northern Territory antidiscrimination legislation. This resulted in more than 45,000 Aboriginal people being subjected to racially discriminatory measures, including compulsory income management.

Indigenous Peoples' rights

In April, the government announced support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, reversing Australia's previous opposition to the Declaration.

In March, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the Australian government ensure it complies with the UN Convention against Racism in applying the Northern Territory Intervention.

In August, the UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people visited Australia and concluded that measures under the Intervention overtly discriminate against Aboriginal peoples, infringe their right to self-determination and further stigmatize communities.

Violence against women and girls

In April, the Federal Government accepted the report of the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children and committed to develop a national plan of action by 2010.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In July, immigration regulations were changed to allow more asylum-seekers to work while their applications are processed. In September, the government stopped charging asylum-seekers for the cost of their detention.

In November, a Bill was passed in the Senate to implement protection for asylum-seekers. The Bill gave asylum-seekers who fall outside the scope of the UN Refugee Convention protection from forcible return.

Four thousand Australian islands remained outside Australia's migration zone. Those who arrived by boat were processed on Christmas Island and granted fewer rights and less access to services than those who arrived by plane.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

In May, Australia signed the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in September.

An extensive National Human Rights Consultation, completed in September, recommended a Human Rights Act for Australia. No government commitment was made to support an Act.

Counter-terror and security

Australian law allowing pre-charge detention for terrorism suspects remained in force.

Police and security forces

  • In June, a Queensland man died after police shocked him with a stun weapon which had been discharged 28 times. A Commission of Inquiry ordered an overhaul of police training and operational policy, and stated that stun guns should be used only when there is a "risk of serious injury".

Deaths in custody

Following a report on the death in custody of an Aboriginal man in 2008, the West Australian government changed custody procedures and training for law enforcement officers but failed to legislate for the humane treatment of prisoners.

Amnesty International visit

  • In November, Amnesty International's Secretary General visited Australia.

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