Page 191 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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social conditions are potential factors in international relations. Poverty and unemployment are the worst menace to peace.

Australia’s position as a middle power that punched above its weight was evident even at this moment. Our contribution to this process was not confined to the efforts made by Doc Evatt, however. Australia was one of the eight states given the responsibility of drafting the declaration, and we should be aware and proud of the impact that our young nation had in such a historically significant moment.

The ACT has made a strong contribution in upholding the values articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as you heard from my colleagues before. The ACT quickly embraced the spirit of article 14 of the declaration. We can recall that refugees and migrants from war-torn Europe helped to build our city, literally. In 1948, Australia and Canberra were still in the grips of the White Australia policy. Now we are proud to have a beautiful multicultural city enriched by peoples whose heritage comes from every part of the world—something we can celebrate each year through our wonderful Canberra Multicultural Festival.

However, in 1948 Indigenous Australians were not counted as citizens, either in this city or in this country, but the referendum of 27 May 1967 that granted Aboriginal Australians citizenship rights in 1968 remedied this infringement of human rights.

I am proud to say that in the year 2000 Canberra was the first Australian city to adopt a Human Rights Act, as has been mentioned by my colleagues. We know that other states have followed our lead, and now it is being considered by the federal government, and we are very proud of this. But, of course, acts give no guarantees. It should be noted that Zimbabwe has a particularly impressive bill of rights, and I am sure that members are well aware of the human rights abuses that have taken place in that country in recent years.

Each government, each party, each organisation and business, and most importantly each individual, has a responsibility of ensuring that these basic human rights are upheld. Gandhi once said:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

As members would be aware, human rights are upheld in this place not only in relation to the spirit of the act but also consistent with the letter of the act. Fortunately, we now have a Human Rights Act in the ACT. However, there is a long way for us all to go, not only here in the ACT and across the nation but around the world. Equality for women is far from universally achieved, and we understand that we still have a long way to go in this area. But we are taking steps each day. Many organisations in Canberra work to support victims of rape and domestic violence. Women are not always safe in our community, and individuals as much as governments and community groups have the duty to ensure that women can take their rightful place in the community, as well as men, of course, and remain safe.

Many Canberrans are dedicated to providing services to disadvantaged families, supporting the rights of children, parents and carers. Some work to rehabilitate the victims of torture and trauma, some for international peace, some for understanding between religions, all of which are fundamentally linked to human rights.

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