Human rights and gender equality


  • Promotes the ratification and implementation of human rights treaties.
  • Delivers practical initiatives to promote human rights, including through grassroots activities in vulnerable communities.
  • Supports national human rights institutions regionally.
  • Engages constructively in bilateral human rights dialogues and exchanges.

Australia has an enduring commitment to human rights internationally and is a party to major human rights treaties. Australia was one of the eight countries that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we have been a leading proponent of its consistent and comprehensive implementation.

Australia believes the protection and promotion of human rights is every nation's responsibility. We take this responsibility seriously including through our national human rights institution, the Australian Human Rights Commission and our Human Rights Framework. We have a strong democratic tradition, a transparent and independent judicial system and a free media. Our society is characterized by a sense of egalitarianism. We are committed to ensuring economic, social and cultural rights for all.

Australia actively engages in the international human rights system, including the General Assembly's Third Committee in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Australia participates in the Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of human rights situations in individual UN member states, engaging closely on the review of all 47 countries considered in 2011. Australia has extended a standing invitation to UN Special Procedures mandate holders. We contribute funding to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Prominent Australians have contributed to UN human rights bodies such as Michael Kirby, who was UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia and is now a member of the UNAIDS Reference Group on HIV and Human Rights; Professor Ron McCallum, member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Philip Alston the first Rapporteur, and later chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Special Advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Millennium Development Goals and UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions; and Mick Dodson and Megan Davis, members of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Further information on Australia’s work on human rights.

Empowering women

Women are powerful agents of change for peace and security. Involving women in ways to resolve conflict is not just an exercise in gender equality, it is a key strategy to improve the chances of peace and development. The more involved women are in the peace process as peace-builders, the greater the likelihood of lasting peace and development.

Australia has been at the forefront of the international community's efforts to empower women to overcome disadvantage and discrimination. We were one of the first countries to sign the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and we continue to ensure its effective implementation. We have supported efforts to enhance international approaches towards gender issues, including the establishment of UN Women.

There is growing international recognition that a comprehensive approach to security issues requires the inclusion of women's experiences and perspectives.

Australia has been a strong supporter of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which provides the basis for women to play a greater role in all peace processes and peacebuilding activities. Australia is currently developing its second National Action Plan to implement resolution 1325. Australia also co-sponsored UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security issues and strongly supports actions in Australia and internationally to address sexual violence against women.

Through its aid program, Australia supports women's leadership and participation in government, business and the community.

Last Updated: 12 December 2012