Refugee Council of Australia
Refugee advocates with backs to camera and in front of Parliament House, in artistic style

The use of non-judicial accountability mechanisms by the refugee sector in Australia

Recommendations

R1. AHRC, the Ombudsman’s Office and UNHCR should adopt key performance indicators on engagement or provide other institutional incentives for their staff to engage proactively with the refugee sector, including refugee communities, around Australia.

R2. AHRC, the Ombudsman’s Office and UNHCR should consider hiring more staff with refugee sector experience in order to enhance sector connections.

R3. RCOA and/or the various state & territory networks should provide regular opportunities around Australia for the sector to meet with staff of AHRC, the Ombudsman’s Office and UNHCR in order to improve access and facilitate the development of personal relationships.

R4. RCOA and/or the various state & territory networks should facilitate greater understanding of the use of non-judicial accountability mechanisms, preferably involving representatives of the mechanisms in question.

R5. Representatives from the various State/Territory networks should convene to discuss common challenges and learnings.

R6. Before making an FOI application for non-personal information, refugee sector members should search the FOI disclosure log of the relevant government department and the Right to Know website to see whether there has been a prior application for the same information.

R7. Refugee sector members should consider making FOI applications for non-personal information through the Right to Know website.

R8. Those who are not experienced in making FOI applications should make use of the advice and guidance available on the OAIC website.

R9. Those who are not experienced in making FOI applications should also consider obtaining feedback on draft applications from those who are experienced.

R10. RCOA should investigate a way to share information about FOI with its members, including what information has already been FOI’ed.

R11. The OAIC should consider making training on the use of the FOI process available to the public at regular intervals.

R12. The FOI sections of federal government agencies and the OAIC should be funded to a level that enables them to meet their statutory obligations in a timely manner.

R13. In order to provide a realistic opportunity for participation, at least a month should be allowed for the making of written submissions to parliamentary inquiries.

R14. Parliamentary inquiries should be resourced at a level which makes it possible for them to hold hearings in more capital cities than just Canberra.

R15. Where a Bill is the subject of a parliamentary inquiry, it should not be passed prior to the tabling of the inquiry report.

R16. The government should make formal final responses to all recommendations contained in parliamentary inquiry reports and should do so within three months.

R17. In order to make more efficient use of limited resources, the sector should consider intensifying collaboration with respect to lobbying parliamentarians, including through coordination of submissions to inquiries. The obvious vehicle for collaboration is RCOA.

R18. In order to make more effective use of the Senate estimates process, those who are not experienced in framing questions that elicit useful answers should consider collaborating with RCOA.

R19. In deciding whether to engage with a parliamentary inquiry, consideration should be given to the potential for indirect medium and long-term payoffs as well as the potential for direct short-term ones.

R20. The sector should consider using the AHRC as an avenue to address the impact on refugees and people seeking asylum of human rights violations which are not specific to that cohort (e.g. sexual harassment in the workplace).

R21. The AHRC and the Ombudsman’s Office should update individuals and organisations providing information about the actions taken in response to ensure that informal information-sharing continues.

R22. In order to assist the public in assessing the responsiveness of government departments, the AHRC and the Ombudsman’s Office should publish statistics on the implementation of their recommendations by department.

R23. The Ombudsman’s Office should publish reports on its immigration detention facility visits.

R24. The Ombudsman’s Office should return to the practice of providing immigration detainees with detailed and individualised detention review assessment reports.

R25. The AHRC and the Ombudsman’s Office should be funded to a level that enables them to meet their statutory obligations in a timely manner.

R26. In order to give them an incentive to implement recommendations made by the AHRC and the Ombudsman, government departments should be required to include information in their annual reports about their acceptance/rejection/implementation of those recommendations.

R27. The websites of UNHCR’s various offices should contain clear information about the precise circumstances in which the office in question can assist people seeking asylum, refugees and others and easy-to-follow instructions for seeking such assistance.

R28. In deciding whether to engage with UN human rights mechanisms, consideration should be given to the potential for indirect medium and long-term payoffs as well as the potential for direct short-term ones.

R29. In order to maximise the potential for long-term payoffs, the sector should systematically follow up on the government’s implementation of relevant recommendations made by UN human rights mechanisms and should report back to the mechanisms on the government’s performance.

R30. The government should ensure that its reports to the UN human rights treaty bodies are of high quality and made in a timely fashion.

R31. The Attorney-General’s Department should keep its UN human rights recommendations database up-to-date, should expand it to include individual complaints relating to Australia, and should include information about the government’s acceptance/rejection/implementation of recommendations.

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