Equal Dialogues: A forum on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity 2010
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Australian Human Rights Commission and FECCA call for action on human rights and multiculturalism  

“For more than a decade, Australia has lacked a national multicultural policy, an effective, strong policy that recognizes our diversity as a strength, not as a weakness…Cultural diversity is, irreversibly, both our demographic norm, and our strength,” said Commissioner Graeme Innes, addressing the Equal Dialogues Forum, held on Tuesday 7th December at  the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The forum, a joint venture between the Commission and the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA), was attended by over 50 representatives from government, NGOs, and community organisations. 

Participants called for:

  1. Reconciliation  with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and formal, constitutional recognition of their special and unique status as the  foundations of any discussion on human rights and diversity in Australia.

  2. Recognition that multiculturalism is about ALL Australians.  

  3. A multicultural policy - based on extensive community consultation - that: 

    • is informed by  human rights frameworks, as many of the issues about cultural diversity are human rights issues;

    • ensures the same rights for all people in Australia, including  people who are not citizens and who make Australia their home  such as International students, skilled migrants on temporary visas, asylum seekers and refugees;

    • is nuanced, practical and addresses the complexity and diversity of the Australian community;

    • addresses intersecting discrimination faced by vulnerable people within culturally and linguistically diverse groups-  women, people with disabilities, people with differing sexual orientations, and who are gender diverse.

  4. Recognition of immigration as a positive, essential and inevitable part of Australian life.

  5. Continuing implementation of the Government’s Australian Human Rights Framework, and commitment to human rights education, because it is proactive, protective, and preventative.

  6. Strong policies, leadership and clear strategies to combat the normalisation of racism and to support communities to live meaningful, safe lives.

FECCA Chair Pino Migliorino highlighted the importance of equality in both human rights and multicultural policies. “We have to find the respect and generosity to engage with all cultures on the basis of equality.  Engaging with difference under these circumstances can create the basis for real equality for all Australians.”

 “The sustainability of any human rights discourse is only possible if it embraces change, if it can be held up to the sun of Australia’s increasing cultural diversity,” Mr Migliorino concluded.

 The forum also featured the release of FECCA’s Australian Mosaic magazine which focuses on Cultural Diversity and Rights.  The magazine can be downloaded for free on www.fecca.org.au

About the speakers

Graeme Innes is both Australia’s Race and Disability Discrimination Commissioner. Graeme has also spent three and a half years as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner.

Joumanah El Matrah, Executive Director of the Islamic Women's Welfare Council of Victoria, is also a Board Member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC), and a member of the Federal Australian Multicultural Advisory Council.

Pino Migliorino, Chair of FECCA, has over 30 years involvement in immigration and multicultural affairs. He leads Cultural Perspectives and CIRCA Research and is a recognised expert in researching and communicating with culturally and linguistically diverse audiences.

Padma Raman, Executive Director of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Padma established and ran the Victorian Law Reform Commission for nine years. She was a member of VEOHRC when it was a key player assisting the Victorian Government to develop and implement the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006