Human Rights in Australia’s International Relations
Human rights occupy a curiously uncomfortable place in Australia’s international relations. Like liberal democracies the world over, Australia sees itself as a human rights leader, noting with pride its role in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, campaigning on issues of gender equality, freedom of expression and abolition of the death penalty, and winning election to the United Nations Human Rights Council (2018-2020). Yet Australia’s engagement with the global human rights regime is also marked by a deep reluctance to impose its values on others, to take consistent and decisive action against countries that systematically violate their populations’ human rights or to speak up against some of the world’s most egregious abuses. What explains the at times contradictory, often hypocritical, and perennially uncomfortable place of human rights in Australia’s international relations?
In this lecture, Renée Jeffery will argue that much of Australia’s discomfort stems from its reluctance to address its own human rights performance or to confront its own human rights history, from its exploitation of South Sea Islander labourers and efforts to curtail non-white immigration to its treatment of its First Nations people. In doing so, she will revisit the history of human rights in Australia’s international relations to demonstrate how the over-riding dominance of national unity and prosperity have shaped and continue to shape its approach to human rights.
About the Speaker
Renée Jeffery is a Professor of International Relations at Griffith University, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow, and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Her research focuses on transitional and post-conflict justice in the Asia-Pacific and, more recently, on human rights in Australia’s foreign affairs. Her tenth book, provisionally titled Unity and Prosperity: Human Rights in Australia’s International Relations is forthcoming.
The lecture will start at 5.45pm, with doors open from 5.30pm. After the lecture, we will have drinks and canapés available in the RSSS foyer.
The Annual Alice Tay Lecture was named after former Board member of the Freilich Project and President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). The Alice Tay lecture series continues to explore human rights and their intersection with bigotry and is held annually at ANU.