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Published: 10 December 2020

On World Human Rights Day 2020, the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) has renewed its calls for urgent action from governments and communities across Australia to create a more equitable, inclusive and sustainable world.

AASW Chief Executive Officer, Cindy Smith said COVID-19 has been a global wake-up call and exposed the level of inequality present in Australia.

“The theme for World Human Rights Day 2020 is “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights”, focusing on the need to ‘build back better’ by ensuring Human Rights are central to our recovery efforts post COVID-19 and into the future.” 

“Everyday, social workers are fighting against policies that discriminate and deny people their fundamental human rights, including dignity, self-determination and having access to a healthy and sustainable environment.”

“Article One of the Universal Declaration tells us that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’, and although Australia prides itself on values of respect, dignity and compassion, from the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, women, children, refugees, LGBTIQA+ people, people with disabilities and older Australians, it is clear there is room for much improvement.”

“Human Rights Day serves as an important reminder of what is possible when we support each other, treat people with dignity compassion and respect. This is core to social work practice and we see the importance of assuring peoples voices are heard and that governments and the broader community take meaningful steps to build more supportive and inclusive communities.”

“An immediate step that Australian governments can take is far greater commitment and action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Countries like Australia are continuing to fall in the global rankings (from 22 in 2016 to 38 in 2019) due to inaction on climate issues and inequality.

“The SDGs provide a framework for governments to recognise the varied dimensions of action that is needed, with a strong focus on human rights, social and environmental justice.”

“As we recover from a once in a generation pandemic and deal with the increasing devastation brought about by climate change, Human Rights Day must serve as a reminder that a sustainable world is not possible unless we tackle inequality, injustice and work in partnerships with each other,” she said.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers