Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and the government enforced the law effectively. The laws of individual states and territories provide the penalties for rape. Maximum penalties range from 12 years’ to life imprisonment, depending on the jurisdiction and aggravating factors.
The law prohibits violence against women, including domestic abuse, and the government enforced the law. Violence against women remained a problem, particularly in indigenous communities.
Females were more likely than males to be victims of domestic violence, including homicide, across all states and territories. A 2015 policy initiative to address domestic violence included A$100 million ($75 million) for federal and state government programs to provide support for victims, including funding for numerous women’s shelters. Police received training in responding to domestic violence. Federal, state, and territorial governments collaborated on the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-22, the first effort to coordinate action at all levels of government to reduce violence against women. In October 2016 the Third Action Plan 2016-2019 of the National Plan set 36 practical actions in six priority areas.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C occurred infrequently. The practice is a criminal act in all states and territories of the country, and these laws apply extraterritoriality to protect citizens or residents from being subjected to FGM/C overseas. Penalties vary greatly across states and territories, ranging from imprisonment from seven to 21 years.
During the year the Australian Pediatric Surveillance unit at Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney reported that pediatricians and health officials saw nearly 60 girls with FGM/C since 2010, many having undergone the most severe form of FGM/C.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment. Complaints of sexual harassment can lead to criminal proceedings or disciplinary action against the defendant and compensation claims by the plaintiff. The HRC receives complaints of sexual harassment as well as sex discrimination. The penalties vary across states and territories.
An independent review of the Victoria Police Department released in 2015 found workplace sexual harassment to be an endemic problem despite more than 30 years of legislation prohibiting sex based discrimination. The review found evidence of chronic underreporting with victims afraid of negative professional and personal consequences resulting from making a complaint.
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion, involuntary sterilization, or other coercive population control methods. Estimates on maternal mortality and contraceptive prevalence are available at: www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/monitoring/maternal-mortality-2015/en/ .
Discrimination: The law provided for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including under laws related to family, religion, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance, as well as employment, credit, pay, owning and/or managing businesses, education, and housing. Employment discrimination against women occurred, and there was a much-publicized “gender pay gap” (see section 7.d.).
Birth Registration: Children are citizens if at least one parent is a citizen or permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth. Children born in the country to parents who are not citizens or permanent residents acquire citizenship on their 10th birthday, if they lived the majority of their life within the country. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services. In general births were registered promptly.
Child Abuse: State and territorial child protection agencies investigate and initiate prosecutions of persons for child neglect or abuse. All states and territories have laws or guidelines that require members of certain designated professions to report suspected child abuse or neglect. The federal government’s role in the prevention of child abuse includes funding for research, carrying out education campaigns, developing action plans against commercial exploitation of children, and funding community-based parenting programs.
During the year the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its final recommendations on what institutions and governments should do to address child sexual abuse and ensure justice for victims. As of October 25, the Royal Commission has not submitted its final report to the Governor-General.
The rate of indigenous children on care and protection orders was nearly seven times greater than the nonindigenous rate.
In 2016 the United Nations investigated dozens of incidents at schools in which children with disabilities were allegedly assaulted, locked in dark rooms, and restrained. Despite education department rules that allow such measures to be used only as a “last resort,” reports show that teachers regularly grabbed schoolchildren by their wrists, held their arms behind their backs, forcibly pinned them to ground, and locked them in small, dark rooms.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls. A person between 16 and 18 years may apply to a judge or magistrate in a state or territory for an order authorizing marriage to a person who has attained 18 years, but the marriage of the minor still requires parental or guardian consent. Two persons younger than 18 years may not marry each other; reports of marriages involving a person younger than 18 years were rare. The government reported an increase in the number of forced marriage investigations, but the practice remains rare.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment for commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the law was effectively enforced. There were documented cases of children younger than 18 years subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.
The law prohibits citizens and residents from engaging in, facilitating, or benefiting from sexual activity with children overseas who are younger than 16 years and provides for a maximum sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment for violations. The government continued its awareness campaign to deter child sex tourism through distribution of pamphlets to citizens and residents traveling overseas.
The legal age for consensual sex ranges from 16 to 18 by state. Penalties for statutory rape vary across jurisdictions. Defenses include reasonable grounds for believing the alleged victim was older than the legal age of consent and situations in which the two persons are close in age.
All states and territories criminalize the possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Maximum penalties for these offenses range from four to 21 years’ imprisonment. Federal laws criminalize using a “carriage service” (for example, the internet) for the purpose of possessing, producing, and supplying child pornography. The maximum penalty for these offenses is 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of A$275,000 ($206,000), or both. Under federal law suspected pedophiles can be tried in the country regardless of where the crime was committed.
The government largely continued federal emergency intervention measures to combat child sexual abuse in aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. These measures included emergency bans on sales of alcohol and pornography, restrictions on the payment of welfare benefits in cash, linkage of support payments to school attendance, and medical examinations for all indigenous children younger than 16 in the Northern Territory.
While public reaction to the interventions remained generally positive, some aboriginal activists asserted there was inadequate consultation and the measures were racially discriminatory, since nonindigenous persons in the Northern Territory were not initially subject to such restrictions.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
According to the 2011 census, the country’s Jewish community numbered 97,300 persons. During the 12-month period ending on September 30, 2016, the nongovernmental Executive Council of Australian Jewry reported 210 anti-Semitic incidents logged by the council, Jewish community umbrella groups in each state, and the Australian Capital Territory, and community security groups. These incidents included vandalism, threats, harassment, and physical and verbal assaults.
In May unknown persons spray-painted swastikas on a playground near a synagogue in Canberra and were reported to local police. Canberra City Services removed the graffiti in August.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities. The government effectively enforced the law.
The disability discrimination commissioner of the HRC promotes compliance with federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law also provides for HRC mediation of discrimination complaints, authorizes fines against violators, and awards damages to victims of discrimination.
Schools are required to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act, and children with disabilities generally attended school. The government provided funding for early intervention and treatment services and cooperated with state and territorial governments that ran programs to assist students with disabilities.
In May 2016 two deaf Australians in NSW could not perform their jury duties because the NSW Sheriff’s Office denied them access to sign language interpreters and real-time steno-captioning services, citing cost burdens and jury confidentiality as reasons.
Of complaints received by the HRC under the Racial Discrimination Act during 2015-16, 21 percent involved employment, 18 percent involved provision of goods and services, and 15 percent alleged “racial hatred.” Of the remaining 46 percent, two percent involved education, two percent involved housing, one percent involved “access to places,” and 41 percent was listed as “other.”
In August 2016 a Sydney resident was the victim of a racist attack near Macquarie University in which the aggressor demanded she take off her niqab and called her a terrorist. The NSW court fined the aggressor A$750 ($596) and ordered supervision by Community Corrections.
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders constitute the country’s indigenous population. Despite federal and state government initiatives, indigenous people and communities continued to have high incarceration rates, high unemployment rates, relatively low levels of education, and high incidences of domestic and family violence, substance abuse, and limited access to health services in comparison with other groups. The Ministry for Indigenous Affairs has responsibility for policy and programs related to indigenous peoples and communities. The prime minister reports annually to parliament on the government’s progress on eliminating indigenous inequalities.
Indigenous groups hold special collective native title rights in limited areas of the country and federal and state laws enable indigenous groups to claim unused government land. Indigenous ownership of land was predominantly in nonurban areas. Indigenous-owned or -controlled land constituted approximately 20 percent of the country’s area (excluding native title lands) and nearly 50 percent of the land in the Northern Territory. The National Native Title Tribunal resolves conflicts over native land title applications through mediation and acts as an arbitrator in cases where the parties cannot reach agreement about proposed mining or other development of land. Native title rights do not extend to mineral or petroleum resources and, in cases where leaseholder rights and native title rights are in conflict, leaseholder rights prevail but do not extinguish native title rights.
As part of the intervention to address child sexual abuse in Northern Territory indigenous communities (see section 6, Children), the Indigenous Advancement Strategy allowed the government to administer directly indigenous communities. The strategy and a number of other programs provide funding for indigenous communities.
According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS), while indigenous people make up less than three percent of the total population, they constitute 27 percent of the full-time adult prison population. Nearly half of the imprisoned indigenous persons were serving sentences for violent offenses. Indigenous youth make up 64 percent of Queensland’s juvenile detainees, despite accounting for just eight percent of the state’s population aged between 10 and 17.
The ABS reported in 2016 that indigenous individuals experienced disproportionately high levels of domestic violence, with hospitalization for family-related assault 28 times more likely for indigenous men and 34 times more likely for indigenous women than the rest of the country’s population.
The HRC has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner.
According to a May Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report, although the government adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of indigenous peoples, it still fails to respect their rights to self-determination and full and effective participation in society.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
There are no laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by law in a wide range of areas, including in employment, housing, family law, taxes, child support, immigration, pensions, care of elderly persons, and social security.
The law provides protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and intersex status.
The HRC received 54 complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation, 29 on gender identity, and two on intersex during 2015-16.