SBS News: 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup - Australia's Human Rights record on the world stage.

International sporting tournaments have always been a means of bringing the world together. The 2022 FIFA men's World Cup prompted the world to closely scrutinise the significant human rights breaches in Qatar, including its treatment of migrant workers, women and those of the LGBTQI+ community.

Eyes now turn to Australia and its co-host New Zealand, who are to host the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. Australia will understandably face scrutiny in relation to its own human rights violations as the juggernaut of this football festival approaches. 

The 2023 FIFA Women’s world cup places Australia on a potentially uncomfortable global stage. In a sea of issues facing many people and groups Australia's track record is worthy of global attention. 

The 2021 Unions NSW report on Migrant Workers claimed that many migrant workers in Australia were being compensated less than $2 an hour. The systemic exploitation of these workers equates to modern slavery.

The 2022 Commonwealth Closing the Gap Report highlights the substantial inequity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, and the gaps are only worsening. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, there have been approximately 527 deaths in custody, a damning indictment of successive government failure to implement the Commission’s recommendations.

The age of criminal responsibility disproportionately impacts Indigenous children, with advocates and the UN consistently calling on Australia to raise the age to 14. The Northern Territory raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years old, being the first jurisdiction in Australia to do so. 

The Labor government has committed to continuing Operation Sovereign Borders, to the rightful condemnation of civil society and human rights activists globally. The focus should not be on stopping boats but providing a safe avenue for travel for individuals escaping harm. 

In September the UNHRC found Australia failed to adequately protect Torres Strait Islanders against the impacts of climate change and had violated their rights to enjoy their culture free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family, and home. Australia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of fossil fuels and has also been singled out as one of the worst countries for deforestation and biodiversity loss. 

Climate change activist Deanna Violet Coco was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for staging a protest blocking traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Ms Coco joins the list of individuals engaging in peaceful protests who are now receiving ‘disproportionate sentences and punishments’ from NSW courts.

With several openly gay players in women's football - unlike Qatar - the 2023 tournament also has an opportunity to create a positive legacy around LGBTIQ+ rights. 

Australia is one of the only Western democracies without a national law enshrining human rights such as a Human Rights Act, charter or bill of rights. A Human Rights Act would be an excellent place for the Government to start to provide a substantive framework for the improvement and monitoring of human rights in Australia.

Read more here.