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International Monitoring of Gender Equality in Australia: Sex Discrimination - International Activities

Discrimination Sex Discrimination
Friday 14 December, 2012

International Monitoring of Gender Equality in Australia

Australia’s Implementation of CEDAW

Since signing (becoming a party to) CEDAW, Australia has developed many mechanisms for implementing the rights enshrined within the Convention. The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA) is one of the most important mechanisms.

The SDA is federal legislation, which prohibits sex discrimination. The SDA was passed in 1984 and gives effect to many of the obligations under CEDAW. The Australian Human Rights Commission is responsible for receiving complaints about breaches of the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth). It also holds public inquiries into issues of national importance, provides independent advice to assist courts in cases that involve human rights principles, and advises parliaments and governments on developing laws, programs and policies. More information about the SDA, and how to make a complaint under the federal law, is available here.

All states and territories have anti-discrimination laws that also prohibit sex discrimination. These laws are administered by equal opportunity or anti-discrimination bodies in each state.

Reporting by the Australian Government

The Australian Government works with State and Territory governments to prepare its regular report to the CEDAW Committee on its implementation in Australia.

During 2008-2009, a range of NGOs dealing with both women's and human rights collaborated to produce an NGO report and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's report. These reports were considered by the Committee in July 2010.  In 2012 the Australian Goverment submitted an Independent Interim Report providing updated imformation on violence against women and Indigenous women's rights.  This report was considered by the CEDAW Committee in July 2013.

Reporting by the Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission provides both an independent report and oral evidence to the CEDAW Committee on the Australian Government’s implementation of its obligations under CEDAW. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner independently monitors progress on Australia’s implementation of CEDAW and the promotion of gender equality in Australia. In July 2010, the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, addressed the CEDAW committee and presented the Commission’s first independent report.

In its independent report, the Commission congratulated the Australian Government for positive developments. These developments included signing the Convention’s Optional Protocol, delivering Australia’s first Paid Parental Leave Scheme, introducing specific provisions into Australia’s industrial relations legislation requiring equal pay for work of equal or comparable value and supporting the first equal pay test case under that legislation.

The report also identified a number of areas in Australia’s implementation of the Convention that could be strengthened. In particular, the Commissioner highlighted the need to strengthen national gender equality laws in order to promote equal representation of men and women in leadership. She also highlighted the need for increased efforts in the prevention of violence and sexual harassment against women, in balancing paid work and caring responsibilities and in ensuring the lifetime economic security of women.  In 2012 the Commission submitted an Independent Interim Report on violence against women and Indigenous women's rights.  This report was considered by the CEDAW Commitee in July 2013.

Concluding observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination of Women

In August 2010, the CEDAW Committee released its Concluding Observations on the Government’s combined 6th and 7th periodic report. The Committee raised concerns about the lack of harmonisation within the federal structure to implement CEDAW and the continued gender segregation and pay gaps in the Australian workforce.

In the Concluding Observations, the CEDAW Committee requested the Australian Government provide, within two years, written information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 29 and 41.  This information was provided to the Committee in 2012 for consideration in 2013.

Paragraph 29 encourages the Australian government to continue its efforts to tackle the persistent problem of violence against women. Paragraph 41 encourages the Australian Government to adopt targeted measures, including temporary special measures, to improve the enjoyment by indigenous women of their human rights in all sectors, taking into account their linguistic and cultural interests.

NGO Reporting to the CEDAW Committee

The CEDAW Committee encourages the community sector (non-government organisations or NGOs) to provide reports with country- specific information so it can gather alternative views to those provided by governments. These can take the form of reports and oral evidence.

NGOs play a vital role in monitoring and implementing CEDAW by:

  • spreading awareness of CEDAW and the rights in it to people around the world
  • lobbying governments, businesses and individuals to implement CEDAW
  • providing information to governments on progress, difficulties and strategies to enable more effective human rights implementation.

The community sector plays a key role in monitoring the implementation of CEDAW in Australia. They can do this by reporting on the achievements of the Australian Government in this regard, as well as by reporting on any violations of the the rights in CEDAW and reporting the aspects of CEDAW that remain unimplemented in Australia.

In 2008, the Australian Government funded NGOs to prepare an independent NGO report and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s report in response to the Government’s combined 6th and 7th CEDAW report.

In 2012 NGO's submitted an Interim Report on violence against women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.