Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Human Rights Council – 22nd Regular Session
Statement on freedom of religion or belief
5th March 2013

 

Australia thanks the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief for his report. Australia is home to a diversity of faiths, united by mutual respect and a commitment to democratic traditions. Freedom of religion or belief is highly valued in Australia and is protected by our Constitution and reflected in our laws.

We believe that freedom of religion or belief must have a broad scope of application and should be implemented in an open and inclusive manner. The understanding of what constitutes a religion or belief can be varied, and this should be respected. Australians are free to choose their religion or belief, to change their religion, or choose to have no religion at all. We are proud of our diverse society.

The rights of those belonging to religious minorities must be protected. We share the Special Rapporteur’s concern about patterns of violations against the freedom of religion or belief. Certain laws, regulations and attitudes which might seem benign can have the effect of imposing discriminatory burdens or unjustifiable restrictions. We encourage States to remove barriers of unnecessary bureaucratic constraints, denial of appropriate legal status, structural discrimination, alienation and indoctrination of children, and obstacles against religious rituals or ceremonies.

Outreach is an important factor in achieving religious freedoms, especially for minority groups. We note the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations with regard to education, public media, inter-religious communications and awareness-raising, and welcome further insights into ways to constructively and appropriately promote issues relating to freedom of religion or belief, particularly within educational institutions and through the potentially positive and powerful role of public media.