Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, 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 gender-based violence, including domestic abuse, and the government enforced the law. The laws of individual states and territories provide the penalties for domestic violence. Gender-based violence remained a problem, particularly in Indigenous communities. Indigenous women were 32 times as likely to be hospitalized due to family violence as non-Indigenous women, according to a 2018 report.
Federal, state, and territorial government programs 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.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment, and the government effectively enforced it. Complaints of sexual harassment can lead to criminal proceedings or disciplinary action against the defendant and compensation claims by the plaintiff. The Human Rights Commission receives complaints of sexual harassment as well as sex discrimination. The penalties vary across states and territories.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.
State and territorial governments provided comprehensive sex education and sexual health and family planning services. Women had access to contraception and skilled medical care, including attendance by skilled health-care workers during pregnancy and childbirth. Indigenous persons in isolated communities had more difficulty accessing such services, including menstrual health- and hygiene-related products, than the population in general. Cultural factors and language barriers also inhibited use of sexual health and family planning services by Indigenous persons, and rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy among the Indigenous population were higher than among the general population. Government, at national and state and territory levels, provided access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence, including emergency contraception.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women and men, including under laws related to family, religion, personal status, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance, as well as employment, credit, pay, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. The government enforced the law effectively.
Employment discrimination against women occurred, and there was a much-publicized gender pay gap (see section 7.d.).
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
It is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her race, color, descent, national origin or ethnic origin, or immigrant status. The law protects individuals from racial discrimination in many areas of public life, including employment, education, getting or using services, renting or buying a house or unit, and accessing public places. The law also makes racial hatred unlawful. The government effectively enforced the law.
Government programs to mitigate factors contributing to racial discrimination included the Closing the Gap framework launched in 2008 and the 2020 National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a revised framework that included 16 new targets.
Of 3,113 complaints received by the Human Rights Commission in 2020-21 (the most recent data available), 10 percent related to racial discrimination. The plurality of racial discrimination complaints related to the provision of goods and services (27 percent), with the second largest category being discrimination related to employment (21 percent). Of these racial complaints, less than 1 percent related place and facility access.
Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders constitute the country’s Indigenous population. Despite federal and state government initiatives, Indigenous peoples 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 National Indigenous Australians Agency has responsibility for policy and programs related to Indigenous peoples and communities. The prime minister reports annually to parliament regarding government 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 concerning 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 conflict, leaseholder rights prevail but do not extinguish native title rights.
According to the Bureau of Statistics, while Indigenous persons make up 3.2 percent of the total population, they constituted 30 percent of all prisoners. Nearly half of the imprisoned Indigenous persons were serving sentences for violent offenses. Figures from parliament note that Indigenous youth were significantly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. According to a report during the year from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, slightly fewer than half of all the juveniles detained were Indigenous, and Indigenous youths ages 10 to 17 were 18 times more likely than non-Indigenous youths to be in detention. In September the director of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Unit criticized the lack of progress in addressing deaths in custody of Indigenous persons since findings on the matter were handed down by a royal commission in 1991, citing the occurrence of more than 500 such deaths since that time.
The Human Rights Commission has an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner.
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 in the country. Failure to register does not result in denial of public services. In general, births were registered promptly on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Civil society organizations raised concerns regarding the use of citizenship cessation laws for dual nationals, which can leave children stateless, and the ability to use these laws against children ages 14 to 18. This law was used by the Department of Home Affairs in stripping citizenship from Australian children detained in camps in Syria. On June 8, the High Court ruled that revoking dual citizenship was unlawful; civil society groups welcomed this as a step to help restore the rights of these children. In October the government announced it would repatriate more than 20 women and 40 children who are Australian citizens, or have a claim to citizenship, that have been in Syrian detention camps.
Child Abuse: State and territorial child protection agencies investigate and initiate prosecutions 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.
The rate of Indigenous children removed from their families for legal or safety reasons was nearly 10 times greater than the rate for the non-Indigenous.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for both boys and girls. Persons ages 16 to 18 may apply to a judge or magistrate for an order authorizing marriage to a person who has attained 18 years; the marriage of the child also requires parental or guardian consent. Two persons younger than age 18 may not marry each other; reports of marriages involving a person younger than age 18 were rare. Forced marriage is a criminal offense; the definition of forced marriage covers all marriages involving children younger than age 16. The government investigated reports of forced marriages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and provides a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment; the law was effectively enforced.
The law prohibits citizens and residents from engaging in, facilitating, or benefiting from sexual activity with children overseas who are younger than age 16 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 ages 16 to 18 by state and territory. 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; authorities enforced the law. 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 a substantial fine and 15 years’ imprisonment. Under federal law, suspected pedophiles may be tried in the country regardless of where the crime was committed, and the maximum penalty for persistent sexual abuse of a child outside the country is 25 years’ imprisonment.
In July federal laws banning alcohol in Northern Territory Indigenous communities, imposed in 2007 following findings of high levels of child sexual abuse, expired. Under new Northern Territory law, Indigenous communities may choose whether to allow alcohol.
According to the 2021 census, the country’s Jewish community numbered almost 100,000. NGOs reported 447 antisemitic incidents for the 12-month period through September 2021 (latest data available), a 35 percent increase over the previous year. These incidents include direct verbal abuse, threats, harassment, and physical assaults.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: No laws criminalize consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.
Violence Against LGBTQI+ Persons: There were no reports that authorities condoned or perpetrated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons.
Discrimination: Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by law in a wide range of areas, including 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 or expression, and sex characteristics. Legal protections against discrimination for LGBTQI+ persons generally include exemptions for religious entities.
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: Three states (New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia) require proof of surgery or medical treatment as a prerequisite for changing an individual’s gender identity on the birth certificate. Identity documents issued by the federal government and other states and territories (including passports) do not have this requirement.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: According to the Human Rights Center, there were organizations that advertised so-called conversion therapies in the country. These therapies are outlawed in Victoria, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory, but remain legal elsewhere. The Australian Human Rights Commission noted in a 2021 report that intersex children born with nonbinary sex characteristics reportedly were operated on and recommended guidelines for when such surgery is conducted.
Restrictions on Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no reports of such restrictions.
Persons with Disabilities
Persons with disabilities may access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in employment, education, publicly available premises, provision of goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, and other contexts. The government effectively enforced the law.