THIS WEEK’S HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS

By Bec Devitt and Eva Csik
elderly man

15 June 2012

Large numbers of people with a disability subject to chemical restraint

The Age has reported that more than 1800 people with a disability were drugged for the purposes of controlling their behaviour in 2011. A report by the Office of the Senior Practitioner released this week identified that the use of ‘chemical restraint’ is easily the most commonly used intervention in Victorian disability services. Victorian Public Advocate Colleen Pearce has called for more frequent auditing including “on-site, unannounced pharmacological reviews by clinically trained staff” in order to “understand why it is that such large numbers of people are subjected to this.”

Report released by SAC shows stable youth detention rates

A report released by the Victorian Sentencing Advisory Council has shown that Victoria’s youth detention rates have remained stable over the last 10 years. According to the Sentencing Advisory Council, a common theme raised during consultations for the report was the increasing complexity of the needs of young offenders, for example, 88% of young people in detention identified their offence as being related to alcohol or drug use.

Inquiry into the Taxi Industry released this week

The inquiry into the Taxi Industry by Professor Allan Fels, AO, has been released which makes 145 recommendations to reform the taxi industry. The report confirms that people with a disability wait too long for taxis and that often taxi drivers do not understand disability. The inquiry is seeking feedback on the draft recommendations until 13 July 2012.

Australian Ambassador reports on welfare of Australian lawyer Melinda Lawyer

An Australian Ambassador has reported that Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor could be held in detention for some time despite being in well and reasonable spirits. The Libyan Government have placed Ms Taylor and other colleagues working for the International Criminal Court in ‘preventative detention’ while it investigates alleged threats to national security.

Australia funds disabled rights projects in developing countries

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has announced that the Federal Government will provide $7.5 million in new initiatives to improve the rights of people with disabilities in developing countries.  $4.5 million of the funding will go to the Pacific Disability Forum.

The Pacific Disability Forum is the regional network of disability organisations and the Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Disability Forum, Setareki Macanawai welcomed the funding, stating “we really want to be empowering within the capacity of people with disabilities, so that they can advocate their rights to the government.”

In a statement Senator Carr said “people with a disability are often made to feel invisible and shut out of community life.” The funding is aimed at increasing community awareness and recognition of the needs and aspirations of Pacific people with a disability.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

June 15th marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day aimed at raising the issue of elder abuse, which affects the human rights of millions of older generations. Officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 the day is a reminder of the need to protect the human rights of our elders. Australian Age Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Ryan said the day provides a focus on “violations of the human rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”

Simon Biggs Professor of Gerontology & Social Policy at the University of Melbourne said that the prevalence of ageism within the community increases the risk of older people experiencing elder abuse, whilst Jenny Blakey, Manager of Senior Rights Victoria said the day was an opportunity to let “older people in the community know they have the right to live with dignity and safety.”

Inquest into the death of an Aboriginal man in custody begins in Alice Springs.

An inquest into the death of Kwementyaye Briscoe who died after being taken into protective custody in January for being drunk has begun in Alice Springs. Mr Briscoe’s family had requested an independent investigation into his death but were denied. Witnesses reported police officers assaulting Mr Briscoe in the watch house before he died.

Security footage shown at the inquest revealed that Mr Briscoe was bleeding from the head but did not receive any medical attention and was left in his cell without being checked for more then two hours, an action, which, is against police procedure. The Coroner will hear evidence from 25 witnesses whilst the inquest continues.

Queensland government weakens civil union legislation

The Queensland government has amended the Civil Partnership Act of Queensland (2011) to “ensure that gay and lesbian couples could no longer have state-sanctioned ceremonies when taking their civil vows.”  Whilst the laws have not been repealed and civil partnerships will still be formerly registered, Section 11 of the Act which allowed people to go through a state-sanctioned service, much like a wedding ceremony has been scrapped because it “offended Christians groups” due to the emulation of marriage between a man and a woman.

Premier Newman said the legislation “will no longer emulate marriage which I believe is demonstrating a lot of good faith to the Christian churches who lobbied us.” Australian Christian Lobby Queensland director Wendy Francis said she was please with the changes but would have preferred the act was repealed.

LGBTI Legal Service president Merran Lawler said she was disappointed at the scrapping of Section 11 stating that the announcement means same-sex couples are “entitled to the barest of entitlements, which is the right to register their relationship or their union.”

Refugee Week June 17-June 23

Refugee Week will be celebrated in Australia next week to coincide with World Refugee Day on June 20th. The week will celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society and raise awareness about the issue that refugees face in striving for a new life in Australia. Events will occur across the country to celebrate the week including the screening of a documentary on why some people choose to journey to Australia by boat. The film “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” will be shown at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne on the 19th of June. For further information about events across Australia see www.refugeeweek.org.au

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