By Bec Devitt and Eva Csik

18 May 2012

Board member of VEOHRC offers resignation after opposing same-sex marriage

Professor Kuravilla George has offered to resign from his position on the Board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission after publicly opposing same-sex marriage. As a signatory to a submission from “Doctors of the Family” to a Senate Committee Inquiry, Professor George stated that the recognition of same sex marriage, would “damage the health of our nation.”

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has released a media statement stating that Professor George’s views do not represent those of the Board or the Commission.  As well as this, it is asserted that the Commissioner was not aware of the Doctors for the Family submission until it was discovered by the media.

Calls for Victoria Police to adopt system to prevent discrimination against young African-Australians

Young people and community leaders have urged that more should be done to assist alienated African-Australian youth to prevent unrest of the type that occurred in English cities last August. In order to prevent police officers from advertently or inadvertently targeting young African-Australians, it has been suggested that Victoria Police adopt a system used by the UK police that records when and why a person is stopped.

Australians for Affordable Housing highlights failure of federal budget to address housing affordability crisis

Sarah Toohey, a representative of Australians for Affordable Housing, has asserted that by the time the major social reforms announced in the Federal budget are operating, the availability of affordable and secure rental housing will have diminished. In an article written for The Age, Toohey points out that no amount of support will allow people with a disability to live with dignity if they cannot access affordable and secure housing.

Questions raised over ASIO assessments of refugees

A woman from Sri Lanka who has been found to be a genuine refugee in Australia has been returned to Villawood detention centre with her two children following a negative security assessment from ASIO. Ranjini, a Tamil woman was taken into custody last week following the ASIO assessment, which it is believed found that her former husband was a driver for the Tamil Tigers. Ranjini is the 48th recognised refugee given adverse security assessments leaving her and the 47 other asylum seekers with no prospect of release into the community or resettlement in another country.

Asylum seekers with adverse security assessments are left in legal limbo as they cannot access the evidence against them nor challenge the claims in court or at a tribunal. Refugee advocates have called for a review of ASIO assessments including Catherine Branson QC, President of the Human Rights Commission who has argued in a piece for The Age that “we must find solutions to the circumstances of people who have received adverse assessments. And we must find them fast. The human cost being paid make not doing so untenable.”

Those branded security threats have been involved in several suicide attempts in the past month including two Tamil asylum seekers who attempted suicide at a detention centre in Melbourne.

For an excellent analysis of the current situation for refugees with adverse security assessments see Andrew Zammit’s article Give Refugees the Right to Appeal Security Assessments on the Right Now website

Police break up Brisbane Tent Embassy protest

More then 200 police broke up an Indigenous tent embassy in Brisbane on Wednesday, arresting 30 people and dragging 80 protestors from the camp at Musgrave Park in South Brisbane. Brisbane City Council wanted the embassy site, which had been in the park since March vacated and cleared before the Paniyiri Greek Festival this weekend.

The presence of 200 police on the site has been criticised as heavy-handed by protestors. Jan Oliver who was among those supporting the tent embassy stated “it’s a police state acting against Indigenous people…it’s a continuation of the abuse of Indigenous people.” Tent embassy spokesperson Chris Moreton said the police used force to break up the protest despite assurances they would not.

Deputy Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said that deployment of more than 200 police was required to ensure the “safety of the officers, protestors and the community”.

Whittlesea Council amendments a win for the Victorian Human Rights Charter

Whittlesea Council has amended its public question time procedure following threats by disability advocate Trevor Carroll to take the council to the Federal Human Rights Commission for breaching the Victorian Human Rights Charter.

The Council’s policy for question time states that all questions must be written in English, in capital letters and will not be recorded or addressed if the author is not present.  Trevor Carroll said Whittlesea Council’s policy was “appalling and clearly discriminated against people with disabilities and access problems.”

Following the complaint a new policy will be introduced in July, providing language services for people who do not speak English and  help to those with speech and hearing impairments. Representatives will also be allowed to attend meetings on behalf of those unable to attend due to disability or age.

New Indigenous cook book aimed at closing the gap

A cookbook has been launched with the aim of closing the health gap in Indigenous communities by using traditional ingredients and techniques. The Bama Recipe Book launched on Tuesday in Mossman in North Queensland and includes recipes such as Stingray Curry. The book is aimed at reducing the high rates of disease like diabetes in indigenous communities by using traditional ingredients and getting back to cultural roots.

Mossman Community Health spokeswoman Sylvia Green said the book can make a contribution to educating people about healthy eating,  “it’s very important that we start to educate our people and stop eating processed food because that’s what’s killing us.”

International Day Against Homophobia

17 May 2012 marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and was celebrated in over 60 countries world wide including Australia. 17 May marks the day in which the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Events where held across the county to celebrate the day including the Pride In Diversity Business Luncheon and Awards in Sydney with special guests Jackie Weaver and the Hon. Michael Kirby. At an event in Wyndham Cr Marcel Mahfoud said the day is about standing together as a community, “although we have come a long way in Australia, discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people still occurs.”



Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.