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African advocacy groups and academics to launch report to address gaps and opportunities for African Australians

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The African Australian Advocacy Centre (AAAC), academics from RMIT and the University of Western Sydney, and human rights law experts will launch a report at the Sydney Town Hall on the need for a Human Rights Act and for programs to address challenges and opportunities for Australia’s 450,000 African-Australian population.

Featured keynote speakers addressing the report launch include, Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Chair of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Ms Lorraine Finlay, Australian Human Rights Commissioner (AHRC), Professor Justine Nolan, Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute UNSW , Professor Alphia Possami-Inesedy – Pro Vice-Chancellor from Westen Sydney University, Associate Professor Kathomi Gatwiri at Southern Cross University.

Some of the main issues impacting African-Australians include racial profiling and targeted surveillance, educational challenges and discrimination, and mental health and trauma treatment.

The report comes off the back of the recent United Nations Working Group of Experts of People of African Descent (UN-WGEPAD) report which noted the growing importance of Africa, its population, and issues facing people of African descent in nations like Australia.

The UN-WGEPAD report made 107 recommendations to address challenges that people of African descent face.

The AAAC has a list of its own domestic recommendations it would like to see addressed, including intercultural programs for better intercultural mixing and understanding, bridging the gaps in employment and education opportunities, and representation in policy development and decision-making (from mental health support to cultural engagement).

Noel Zihabamwe, Founder and Chair of AAAC, says while there are significant and serious issues to address, there are also tremendous opportunities to tap the skills, energy, and resources of Africans living in Australia.

‘While we’ve seen a lot of racial profiling around African young people, what we’d like to talk about and explore as well are those benefits and opportunities African Australians bring with them to this great country.

‘We’ve seen some great integration in sports here, but we want to see that extend to other areas like arts and culture, to medicine, to engineering, to academia,’ says Zihabamwe.

Human Rights Commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, says ‘While the African Australian Advocacy Centre (AAAC) Report highlights serious issues that need to be urgently addressed to protect the human rights of people of African descent in Australia, the overall message is a positive one. 

‘By setting out a strategic roadmap the AAAC Report outlines practical steps we can take to translate the promise of human rights into action, and the role that each of us can play in making this a reality. It is a timely reminder that building a brighter future for all Australians – including our African Australian communities – requires us to all work together to protect and promote human rights.’

Professor Justine Nolan, Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute at the UNSW says the report reveals a lot of work still needs to happen.

‘This report demonstrates addressing racism in Australia is still very much a work in progress. The UN Working Group identified that people of African descent living in Australia have experienced significant inequity.’

‘This report articulates the sizeable gap between what people are experiencing and policy responses. We hope it will spark an important discussion about their experiences and what it means to live in multicultural’ Australia,’ says Professor Nolan.

 Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Chair of United Nations -Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (UN-WGEPAD) says “African Australian Advocacy Centre’s focus, commitment, drive and collaborative approach have harnessed the momentum of the Working Group’s 2022 fact-finding visit to Australia to consult widely, craft a framework for the well-intentioned, and stand today with the Council of the City of Sydney and RMIT to proffer pathways to a more just society for African Australians.  Global awareness of the racial boundaries and barriers facing Australians of African descent has been heightened by AAAC’s follow-up to the Working Group’s report.  From Geneva to New York and back to Australia, the emerging visibility and voice of African Australians must scaffold a step-change in individual, community and national efforts for the recognition, justice and development for African Australians”.

Professor Alphia Possami-Inesedy – Pro Vice-Chancellor – Engagement and Advancement at Western Sydney University says
“The launch of the We belong here: Framework for human rights and equity for Australians of African descent; by the African Australian Advocacy Centre marks a pivotal moment for collective action. It opens up a crucial platform for community members, government entities, industry sectors, and higher education institutions to collaboratively address the complex issues outlined in this report. Western Sydney University, through its commitment via the Social Justice Network, proudly supports this critical initiative. We find ourselves at a crossroads, navigating through an era of significant social, technological, economic, and global political transformations. It is within this context that we believe the most effective responses to structural changes emerge from active engagement, open dialogue, and the acknowledgment that the pursuit of justice, increased respect, and the expansion of freedoms are in the collective interest of all. This collaborative effort not only aligns with our values but also reinforces Western Sydney University’s role in fostering an inclusive society where diversity is not just recognized but celebrated”.

The launch of the report will occur on 21 March 2024 from 11AM.


Available for comment:

Noel Zihabamwe, Chair, AAAC

Lorraine Finlay, Human Rights Commissioner

Professor Justine Nolan, Director, Human Rights Institute, UNSW

Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Chair of UN-WGEPAD

Professor Alphia Possami-Inesedy, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and Advancement at Western Sydney University 

Sarah Williams, Academic Board Member -AAAC & Lecturer at RMIT University

About AAAC

African Australian Advocacy Centre (AAAC) represents the African Australian Communities in the area of advocacy, research, and policy outcomes in collaboration with different stakeholders including but not limited to non-profit organisations, state and federal government, business, industry, the civil sector, academia and the philanthropic sector.

About the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGEPAD)

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts: Ms. Catherine S. Namakula (Uganda) current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Barbara G. Reynolds (Guyana) current Vice-Chair; Ms. Dominique Day (United States of America); Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko (Hungary and Mr. Sushil Raj (India). The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. 

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