By Georgina Pickers
NCWQ Human Rights Adviser
At no time in human history have we been so well informed yet at the same time so unquestioning, accepting news as ‘fact’ or simply lacking healthy scepticism. The rise of social media has influenced this trend. It may well be widening the gap in extreme opinions, reducing ground for reasonable debate or compromise. It is a trend that is concerning. In many countries this is causing the majority to embrace authoritarian leaders, threatening long-term instability, civil and human rights.
The Adviser’s report on International Relations and Peace refers to the current mass movement of people. Human Rights conventions give legal if not an assumed sense of entitlement to refugees or asylum seekers to freely enter another country no matter what category or reason. This is severely testing the soverignty of many countries as well as their capacity to comfortably accommodate and integrate new arrivals. A possible increase of in the numbers of unaccompanied children, in expectation that countries will be forced to accept them (and later their families) under the Rights of the Child Conventions, adds further pressures.
International crime in the form of people smuggling operations is taking lucrative advantage of these mass movements. They offer desperate ‘clients’ false hopes and for a price unsafe or fatal passage to the perceived affluent Western world. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates human trafficking profits at $150.2 million annually. More one third of the profit comes from forced labour exploitation and the remaining two thirds from sexual exploitation.
Domestic and Family violence reported incidents to Queensland Police were down 5% in the 2016-17, however the figure still represented 62,264 offences in that period, with breeches of Domestic Family Violence Protections Orders up 9%. The Queensland Government is asking ‘by-standers’ to speak up, safely intervening or reporting suspected cases of D.V. The excuse of blaming the victim should not be used as a reason for the assault of women (or men).
From the concept that a child is raised by a village, the whole community has the responsibility of keeping children safe. Foster parents are in greater demand than ever. While the Queensland Government’s Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women pleads for more foster carers, they are under greater pressure to ‘vet’ suitable people following the much-publicised death of a foster child at the hands of the foster family. Timely monitoring of the child’s on-going welfare is paramount.
The recently announced Federal Government national apology and National Redress Scheme for those who experienced institutional child sexual abuse (reportedly up to 60,000 survivors) is timely.
After national dialogue about Elder Abuse, particularly in relation to financial matters, the Queensland Government announced in September 2017 a new law to protect older persons from financial abuse. The reform concerns powers of attorney, to address the potential of abuse by family members with these powers. The new laws, while welcomed, have yet to be enacted. When enforced they will be administered by the Queensland Public Guardian within the Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Authorities have commented that financial elder abuse may be a ‘red flag’ to other forms of abuse. NCWQ had made a submission to the Queensland Government on the need for more regulation on enduring powers of attorney in 2017.
The global campaign of the ‘MeToo’ movement initially via social media and later main stream media sent a strong message to men (and women) in positions of power or authority that sexual harassment is not acceptable in any community or occupation. The ‘message’ has hopefully filtered down through all social strata. It is a wake-up call that behaviour that erodes the dignity of a person is neither lawfully nor socially acceptable in the 21st century.