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Summary record of the 13th meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Monday, 24 May 1993 : Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 8th session.

UN Document Symbol E/C.12/1993/SR.13
Convention Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Document Type Summary Record
Session 8th
Type Document

12 p.

Subjects Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Right to Education, Socially Disadvantaged Persons, Persons with Disabilities

Extracted Text

7 June 1993
Original: ENGLISH
Eighth session
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Monday, 24 May 1993, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mr. ALSTON
Organization of work (continued)
Consideration of reports (continued)
(a) Reports submitted by States parties in accordance with articles 16 and 17
of the Covenant (continued)
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They
should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the
record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to
the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Any corrections to the records of the meetings of the Committee at this
session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly
after the end of the session.
GE.93-16726 (E)
page 2
The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.
ORGANIZATION OF WORK (agenda item 2) (continued)
1. Mr. TEXIER, referring to the general discussion on the rights of the
ageing and elderly, asked whether a general comment was to be prepared on the
subject; if so, he suggested that there should be further discussion prior to
its preparation.
2. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO endorsed that suggestion and indicated that she
could submit a draft list of issues which might serve as a basis for further
3. The CHAIRPERSON said that there was obviously a need to return to the
subject in the course of the current session, if time permitted, to determine
whether a general comment was to be drafted and, if so, the relationship it
should have to any additional matters to be included in the Committee’s
guidelines. It had become evident from the discussions that there was a gap
in United Nations action in that area as the situation of the elderly had not
been significantly addressed from a human rights perspective, and that there
were still some important matters of principle that needed reflection.
4. Mr. Muterahejuru took the Chair.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS (agenda item 5) (continued)
OF THE COVENANT (continued)
Australia (E/1990/7/Add.13)
5. At the invitation of the Chairperson, Mr. Jones, Mr. Clarke and
Mr. Willis took places at the Committee table.
6. Mr. JONES (Australia) said that when considering matters relating to
social, cultural and economic rights in the context of Australia, it was
important to bear in mind the federal nature of that country’s Government.
In education, for example, the Federal Government played an important role in
determining the level of funding to be made available, but the six States and
two Territories of Australia had considerable autonomy in the administration
of educational institutes, the employment of teaching staff and the
implementation of educational policy generally.
7. Mr. CLARKE (Australia), drew attention to his country’s second periodic
report (E/1990/7/Add.13), noted that in the period since its preparation
in 1991-1992, there had been further progress in a number of areas of concern
to the Committee, particularly in relation to disadvantaged groups. As the
previous speaker had said, the federal system in Australia meant that there
was considerable autonomy on the part of States and Territories in the field
of education, and it was therefore something of a challenge to assemble
information on developments in the different parts of the country. In that
respect there had been considerable progress in the form of increased
coordination among State governments.
page 3
8. The National Report on Schooling in Australia and its Statistical Annex,
copies of which would be available for consultation by members of the
Committee, would provide the Committee with considerable information and data
relevant to its work. He would be referring to relevant sections of the two
volumes in his replies to the list of issues raised by the Committee in
document E/C.12/1993/WP.1.
9. To date, very few statistics had been available in relation to Aboriginal
education. However, the Australian Government had decided that later in 1993
a task force, which he would be leading, would identify available statistics
in that area, and that subsequently a national committee would be appointed to
review them and to advise State governments on steps to be taken to improve
Aboriginal education.
10. He drew attention to the 10 national goals and objectives for schooling
set out in the National Report on Schooling in Australia. They included:
providing an excellent education for all young people, which developed their
talents and capacities to full potential and which was relevant to the social,
cultural and economic needs of the nation; promoting equality of educational
opportunities and providing for groups with special learning requirements;
providing a foundation for further education in terms of knowledge and skills,
respect for learning, and positive attitudes for life-long education.
11. Referring to the first of the list of issues contained in
document E/C.12/1993/WP.1, he said that few statistics were currently
available on Aboriginal students living in very isolated areas. However, the
task force to which he had referred would identify relevant statistics on the
basis of data extracted from the 1991 population census. On the basis of
overall participation in education in Australia, however, it could be noted
that the rate of participation in compulsory education was very high - between
99 and 100 per cent. It could therefore be assumed that the vast majority of
Aboriginal students were attending school, bearing in mind that they
represented a small percentage of the total population and that further work
would be required to determine whether there were pockets of young people not
participating in education. For Aboriginal students as well as non-Aboriginal
students living in relatively isolated areas, he referred to table 11 (B) of
the Statistical Annex, which showed completion rates of students to the final
year of education (year 12). Statistics on completion rates to the final
compulsory year of education (year 10) were not however available. For all
students, the rate of retention to the final year of schooling had risen
from 36 per cent in 1985 to 52 per cent in 1991. Statistics were not
available concerning children of transient communities. For information on
migrant workers and other immigrants, he referred the Committee to page 5 of
the National Report on Schooling in Australia, which stated that the research
evidence indicated that a larger proportion of young people of non-English
speaking background had completed year 12 than other young people, although
there could be variations between different ethnic groups within that general
pattern. In the late 1980s, about 54 per cent of Australian-background
students had completed year 12, compared to 60 per cent of those from
non-English speaking backgrounds. When considering children living below
the poverty line, national statistics were categorized in terms of three
percentiles - from low through medium to high socio-economic status.
page 4
There had been a dramatic improvement in the low socio-economic status group
in terms of students completing the final year of non-compulsory education
(61 per cent in 1991 as compared with 39 per cent in 1985), while the
percentage of students of high socio-economic status had increased
to 80 per cent in 1991 as compared to 58 per cent in 1985. Statistics were
not currently available in relation to children who were physically or
mentally disabled.
12. Turning to paragraph 2 of the list of issues concerning measures and
progress in terms of basic skills, retention rates, subject choice and
post-school destinations, it should be noted that in Australia, as in other
countries, there had been considerable discussion among educationalists on the
matter of testing basic skills. While agreement had not yet been reached on
the matter, the Federal authorities were working together with State
governments to obtain better accountability of progress. A project had been
agreed with State governments which would address equity issues in terms of
patterns of student performance in selected subjects at senior secondary
level, with a view to establishing the implications for both policy and
practice in curricula and assessment. Further information in that area would
be available for his country’s next report. Reference had already been made
in his introductory remarks to retention rates, while data were available on
subject choice and post-school destinations in tables 12 and 13 respectively
of the Statistical Annex, which compared 1991 and 1986 statistics broken
down by gender. The data available were not, however, broken down into
the seven groups referred to in the Committee’s list of issues.
13. Regarding paragraph 3 of the list of issues, the Federal Government had
decided to undertake a national review of education later in the year to
examine the effectiveness of Aboriginal participation in decision-making and
monitor progress in achieving equity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
students with regard to access to education, participation and the outcomes of
education, together with more in the way of statistics. Fuller details would
be provided in Australia’s next report. Meanwhile, Aboriginals and Torres
Strait Islanders were still the most disadvantaged group in society, so the
Government was providing substantial additional funds for their educational
needs and would continue to do so, in cooperation with State governments.
14. On paragraph 4, he was able to report considerable success in negotiating
a new strategy with all the States and Territories, entitled the National
Action Plan for the Education of Girls 1993-1997, with the aim of improving
subject choice for girls and young women. The intention was to raise
awareness of the needs of girls, to establish equal access on choice, to
ensure a supportive school environment and to provide equitable resource
allocation. Performance indicators and appropriate statistics under each
heading would be required from each State for the years 1993 to 1997. He
added that some progress had already been made: for example, between 1986
and 1991 the number of girls studying mathematics had risen from 19.2 per cent
to 22.8 per cent, those studying business and economics from 12.4 per cent
to 14.7 per cent and computer studies from 0.3 per cent to 1.8 per cent.
He also noted that females consistently recorded higher retention rates:
between 1985 and 1991 the rate had risen from 49 per cent to 75 per cent,
whereas for males it had risen from 41 per cent to 63 per cent.
page 5
15. With regard to paragraph 5, he said that the Government had charged the
Higher Education Council and the National Board of Employment, Education and
Training with the task of regularly reviewing and recording the working of the
Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). Their findings were that most
qualified applicants from all socio-economic groups were not deterred by the
need for making contributions. The expansion of higher education places had
resulted in an extraordinary growth in participation, but proportionally
speaking there was little difference in the socio-economic composition of
entrants. The absolute number of working-class students, however, had
increased and the Government was negotiating with higher education
institutions to further successful participation by those students by
providing special entry arrangements, child care facilities, bridging courses,
additional tutorial assistance and information and awareness programmes.
16. As for paragraph 6, Australia’s language and literacy policy, dating
from 1991 had recognized the importance of proficiency in English. To that
end Australia was providing an additional $142 million under its 1992-1993
budget for additional funding of English as a second language, which
represented a substantial increase on the previous year’s expenditure
of $114.5 million. Since 1992 people entering the country had been legally
entitled to tuition. Fees were charged in some cases, but refugees and
humanitarian entrants, as well as preferential family migrants, were exempt.
After 1993 new migrants who had been assessed as having less than functional
English, and who had paid or been exempted, were entitled to tuition
for 510 hours, or until they were functionally proficient, whichever came
sooner. Proficiency was understood to mean the ability to deal with most
social and some work situations, but without a thorough or confident command
of the language. Of migrants arriving in 1991-1992 and needing tuition,
76 per cent had completed their courses by January 1993. Of 30,000 migrants
assessed in 1990 and 1991, 72 per cent had recorded language gains. Women
consistently formed the majority of participants, with a share ranging
from 53.5 per cent in 1987 to 55.5 per cent in the first term of 1993. A dip
in 1992 had reflected the priority given for a short period to unemployed
people, at which time men had predominated. The policy had been revised
in 1993.
17. Turning to paragraph 7, he remarked that Australia enjoyed a diverse
schooling system. The diversity, which was particularly apparent in the
non-governmental sector, comprising 25 per cent of the total, demonstrated
the multiculturalism of Australian society. As a specific example he cited
Catholic schools, with their emphasis on religious studies. He added that
the 10 general goals of schooling, which he had mentioned in his opening
remarks, were seen as providing a framework for the national curriculum,
developed over eight key learning areas in cooperation with State governments.
Implementation would be the responsibility of State Ministers of Education and
the independent schools.
18. Regarding paragraph 8, he pointed out that teachers were employed by
State governments or by independent schools and that conditions of service
therefore varied widely. There had, none the less, been considerable progress
over the previous year on improving conditions generally. Efforts were being
page 6
made to achieve greater recognition of the value of teachers and their
critical role in the economic and cultural development of his country.
Details on salary rates could be found in the Statistical Annex.
19. Turning to paragraph 9, he said that in his country’s second report
emphasis had been placed on the work done for disadvantaged students. More
needed to be done, and the Government was negotiating with States a national
equity strategy to improve the lot of the one million students (out of a total
of three million) who were disadvantaged in some way. The factors most likely
to make the educational experience less rewarding and effective than that of
their contemporaries included poverty, low socio-economic background, being an
Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander, living in an isolated rural area,
having a disability, coming from a non-English speaking background, or
suffering from poor literacy, family breakdown, drugs, violence and abuse.
Children who left school early were twice as likely to come from a low
socio-economic background and from a single-parent family. They were
four times less likely to have a parent with a university degree. They
were also more likely to be disabled or to come from a non-English speaking
background. Equity funding was of assistance in removing the barriers to such
children’s progress.
20. Regarding paragraph 10, he referred the Committee to the Statistical
Annex, tables 3 (A) and 4. He added that the number of schools in the
government and Catholic sectors had remained constant, whereas other sectors
had grown, particularly in the area of Christian schools set up by the smaller
denominations and Aboriginal schools. On paragraph 10 (b), regarding student
enrolment and 10 (c) (public funding), he referred the Committee to
tables 3 (B) and 19 and 20 of the Statistical Annex. On paragraph 10 (d) he
said that the demographic characteristics of government schools in relation to
fee-paying schools were very diverse: a fee-paying school might be situated
in an area of high socio-economic status but have a wide catchment area. In
some States the catchment areas of government schools had been dezoned to give
parents a greater choice. He added that school enrolments in the inner cities
were declining, with a consequent decline in government funding as schools
closed. There were also some areas of growth, but usually in the outer
suburbs, where schools were serving families with young children. The
Government was anxious not to waste resources. If a community wanted to start
an independent school, funding was approved only in areas showing constant or
growing enrolment.
21. In response to paragraph 11 (a), he said that the extent to which payment
was insisted on varied from school to school. Payment for excursions was
always required, although assistance was given to the most disadvantaged by
State governments and private charities. A notable example of the latter was
the Smith family, with their organization Educate, which provided $300 grants
and counselling services and had been most successful in raising student
participation. On paragraph 11 (b), he said that free education was a
principle throughout Australia and that fees for additional items were indeed
voluntary. He was unable to answer the questions in paragraph 11 (c) and (d),
as no data on those matters were being collected. Regarding paragraph 11 (e)
he said that there was relatively little private sponsorship of government
page 7
schools: local firms might subsidize school teams or advertise in school
magazines, among other schemes. Sponsorship varied from State to State, but
Ministers of Education had agreed a national code on sponsorship.
22. In reply to paragraph 12 (a), he said that additional funding for
students from disadvantaged groups in 1991 had amounted to $239 million of
federal funds (9.5 per cent of total government expenditure on schools); that
figure excluded income support for students. Regarding paragraph 12 (b), he
said that 17 per cent of government outlays on school-level education went on
non-government schools. There was no uniform method of allocation. Federal
expenditure was based on the need of schools, as was some State expenditure;
others preferred a flat rate of subsidy. He referred the Committee to
tables 23 (A) and (B) of the Statistical Annex for details of subsidy schemes.
23. With regard to paragraph 12 (c) of the list of issues, in 1993 the
Federal Government had moved to using the average recurrent cost of educating
a student at a government school as its base for the funding of non-government
schools. Previously, a derived reserve configuration called the "community
standard" had been used as the funding base. Because the average recurrent
cost of educating a student at a government school had only recently become
the benchmark, data on the number of non-government schools operating above
that level had not yet been compiled, but pages 45 to 48 of the Statistical
Annex would provide some figures.
24. Turning to paragraph 13, he said that there was no discrimination in
Australia between government and non-government schools with regard to
education in terms of the operation of the legislation, namely the Disability
Discrimination Act 1992, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 and the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission Act 1986. The Sex Discrimination
Act 1984, however, provided an exception for discrimination on the grounds of
marital status or pregnancy in the provision of education or training by
educational institutions that were conducted in accordance with the doctrines,
tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed. The exception
was limited to circumstances where the person who discriminated did so in good
faith in order to avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of followers
of a religion or creed. The exception had been inserted in an attempt to
balance the Australian Government’s desire to achieve equality in education
with recognition of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The Government was at present considering whether that exception should be
narrowed. The legislation of the eight State and Territory governments
contained similar provisions. For instance, private educational authorities
in the State of New South Wales were excepted from the provisions prohibiting
discrimination on the grounds of sex, marital status, physical or intellectual
impairment or homosexuality. No such exception existed, however, in relation
to racial discrimination. In the State of Victoria, where an educational
institution was administered in accordance with the precepts of a particular
religion, sexual discrimination was not unlawful if it was based on the
precepts of that religion and arose in the course of administering the
25. In reply to paragraph 14 (a), he said that people with disabilities
were one of the six groups identified as disadvantaged with respect to higher
education. Institutions had implemented a wide range of strategies such as
page 8
the provision of special equipment and facilities, advisers and contact people
to help students with disabilities, the modernization of materials and
curricula, flexible timetabling and assessment arrangements, and awareness
programmes on the opportunities available in higher education. Special
funding had been earmarked for 1991, 1992 and 1993 for cooperative projects
among groups of institutions in developing comprehensive support programmes.
There were now higher education disability networks in every State and
Territory, with collaboration at national level.
26. In order to establish baseline data, in 1992 the Australian Government
had commissioned a study on the additional costs of education and training
for people with disabilities, which examined the number, characteristics and
special requirements of people with disabilities in post-secondary education
and training and the additional costs for such students in undertaking their
studies. The study had found that some 5,000, or 0.9 per cent of the total
higher education population with disabilities, were participating in higher
education in 1992. While those data suggested that that group was still
under-represented in higher education, much effort had been expended to
increase their successful participation.
27. On paragraph 14 (b) of the list of issues, he said that the level of
support services available to school students was more comprehensive than that
currently available to those in higher education. The major barriers seemed
to relate to the transition from school to higher education and the provision
for support while undertaking a higher education course, rather than to the
lack of achievement at the school level.
28. With regard to paragraph 14 (c), the Federal Government provided
additional funding for students with intellectual or physical disabilities.
In 1991, 27.6 per cent of Australia’s expenditure on targeted programmes had
been spent on special education, amounting to $66 million. Accurate data
were not available on the number of students with intellectual or physical
disabilities, because of the lack of nationally-accepted definitions of
disability and the differences between States in the organization of special
educational and related services. However, the Australian Government had
commissioned a study of educational provisions for students with disabilities,
whose major aim would be to provide information on Australia’s agreed national
goals, with special reference to that of promoting equality of educational
opportunities and providing for groups with special learning requirements.
It was expected that the information gathered during that study would mitigate
the lack of accurate comparative data.
29. With regard to paragraph 14 (d), as he had already indicated, one of the
difficulties in tracking students with disabilities across the sectors was
lack of comparable data. In higher education the Australian Government was
working with tertiary institutions to develop baseline data and reporting on
outcomes. An equity plan now formed part of the educational profile of each
tertiary institution, and indicated strategies to be used to achieve targets
and measure performance. In 1993 a grant of approximately $4 million would be
available to improve the access of disadvantaged groups, including people with
disabilities. Provision for such people varied from State to State, and
$200,000 had been allocated in 1993 to continue developing a national action
plan for people with disabilities in vocational education and training, to
page 9
match the provision of States for people with disabilities and to draw them
into a national strategic plan. The Government also provided a disabled
apprentice wage subsidy.
30. In reply to paragraph 14 (e) of the list of issues, he said that since
the early 1980s the integration of students with disabilities into regular
classes had increasingly become the norm. As a result teacher-training
courses incorporated guidance to assist them in meeting the educational
expectations of students with disabilities. While the inclusion of special
education units in professional training of general classroom teachers was
still largely voluntary, in at least one State some mandatory special
education study was required in order to obtain the necessary teacher
registration certificate. That trend was expected to accelerate.
31. In 1992 Australia had contributed to an OECD project entitled "Active
life for disabled youth" through a national study that included students
with disabilities in regular classrooms, focusing on exemplary professional
development strategies for regular classroom teachers. Teacher quality was a
major policy objective for the Federal Government. Government objectives were
set out in the document entitled Teacher Access, and the policy included
funding of up to $130 million over the next three years, and provision for
teachers to upgrade their skills, including $60 million for a national
professional development programme.
32. Paragraph 15 of the list of issues requested a discussion of the
adequacy or inadequacy of the budget for education to effect real educational
improvement for students in poor communities. The Federal Government
invested $1 billion a year in school equity. That sum was equally divided
between income support for poorer students and discrete equity programmes.
The federal commitment to equity had increased over the past three years with
the expansion of programmes such as the Disadvantaged Schools Programme, the
Country Areas Programme, and the introduction of new programmes like the
Students at Risk Programme to assist students in danger of leaving school
prematurely. The State governments also made further contributions, but there
was no clear national picture at that stage. The national strategy for equity
in schools to which he had referred earlier would clearly state the national
commitment to schools equity and would outline goals and outcomes. The
Federal Government was committed to the implementation of that programme as a
public responsibility. That development would provide a meaningful answer to
the question over the next three years.
33. The CHAIRPERSON thanked the Australian delegation for its replies and
invited members to put further questions.
34. Mr. ALVAREZ VITA noted that paragraph 14 of the report (E/1990/7/Add.13)
stated that copies of it were available to members of the public and
organizations on request. How many members of the public had shown an
interest in receiving copies of the report? The reply would give him an
idea of the degree to which human rights interested Australians.
35. In connection with paragraph 19 of the report, which stated that some
schools, generally the Catholic schools, waived or reduced fees for low-income
page 10
families wanting a religiously-based education for their children, he asked
what percentage of Catholic schools reduced fees and to which socio-economic
level of families would the reduction apply.
36. Paragraphs 44 to 50 of the report dealt with the measures taken to make
free primary education accessible to all. He asked how many indigenous
languages existed in Australia, and whether there was any teaching in those
languages or only in English. Were there Aboriginal teachers or did teachers
go out to Aboriginal communities?
37. With respect to the prohibition of the importation of goods that were
blasphemous, indecent or obscene (para. 310 of the report), he asked what
criteria were used to decide whether something was blasphemous, indecent or
obscene and whether "blasphemous" was considered in relation only to
Christianity or also to Islam.
38. Mr. GRISSA pointed out that the issue of the cultural rights of
minorities (art. 15 of the Covenant) had not been addressed in the oral
39. He asked for clarification of the educational rights of the minorities in
Australian External Territories like Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands.
40. Since the motivation for higher education was job opportunities, he asked
what job opportunities were open to Aboriginals and whether there was
discrimination against them in practice, regardless of the law.
41. Mrs. IDER asked what percentage of secondary and higher education was
funded by the Government and States and what percentage from private sources.
She also wished to know what percentage of legitimate demand for university
education was satisfied. How many passed the necessary tests?
42. The statistics in the report showed that in aboriginal areas
only 60 per cent of the population received primary education. She therefore
wondered whether there was any possibility of securing primary or secondary
education at a later stage in a non-formal way.
43. Was there any legal redress for an individual when the right to education
and higher levels could not be implemented? Had any cases been brought and
with what outcome?
44. How expensive was it for an Australian national or a foreigner to pay for
higher education from his/her own pocket?
45. Mr. RATTRAY wished to know whether there was any evidence of a difference
in the quality of the education dispensed by the government and non-government
schools. Noting that 25 per cent of all Australians attended non-government
schools, he asked what percentage of Aboriginals attended such schools, and
what proportion of university entrants came from government and non-government
schools respectively. He also asked for clarification of the concept of
"voluntary fees", and of the social and cultural impact of such payments on
persons required to make them. Might it not be considered that the
page 11
introduction of fees for higher education represented a retrograde step, in
the light of the Covenant’s aim of "progressive introduction of free
education" (art. 13 (2) (b))?
46. With regard to disadvantaged groups, he asked whether any strategy
existed to reduce the disparity between the range of curriculum subjects
traditionally studied by women and by men. Was prejudice in the workplace a
factor militating against women’s choice of certain types of profession, such
as engineering?
47. It was his understanding that some States permitted certain types of
non-government school to apply discriminatory measures regarding religion or
marital status. Did the Commonwealth Government see such discrimination as
grounds for restricting funding to those institutions?
48. Turning to the area of cultural rights, he asked whether it was perceived
that all Australians should have equal access to Australia’s cultural
heritage. While applauding the sentiments expressed in paragraph 218 of the
report, he wondered whether that paragraph did not reflect intentions rather
than reality. To what extent was the English-speaking cultural majority
encouraged to study the languages of the minorities? In other words, was
multiculturalism a two-way process? Lastly, he asked for clarification
regarding the nature of the "vulnerability" referred to in paragraph 328 of
the report.
49. Mr. KOUZNETSOV asked to what extent university administrations and other
institutions of higher learning were obliged to comply with government
50. Mr. TEXIER asked for fuller details concerning the role of the
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission referred to in paragraph 6 of
the report, and, in particular, concerning its composition. Did it comprise
only representatives of the State, at Federal or State level; or did it also
include representatives of civil society, such as members of non-governmental
organizations and trade unions? Reference was also made to the
Attorney-General’s Department. Did the Attorney-General have a specific
role with regard to human rights?
51. On the issue of indigenous populations, he asked for an elucidation of
the Australian delegation’s conception of multiculturalism. He had been
struck by the reference, in paragraph 217 of the report, to the rejection of
approaches that concentrated on integration. All cultures must have equal
access to the apparatus of the State; and attainment of that goal involved a
process of integration. How was equality of the indigenous populations
vis-à-vis the various immigrant populations ensured, and what was done to
preserve the indigenous cultures, especially in the specific context of
commemoration of International Year for the World’s Indigenous People?
52. Lastly, he had the impression that private sponsorship played a greater
role than State involvement, whether at Federal or State level, in the
promotion of cultural events generally. Was that in fact the case, and if so,
was it the result of a deliberate policy?
page 12
53. Mrs. BONOAN-DANDAN said that the high level at which Australia was
represented was a tribute to the seriousness with which it viewed its
obligations under the Covenant. Like Mr. Rattray, she was still unclear as to
the exact implications of the concept of "voluntary fees". In particular, she
had the impression that the legal protection referred to in paragraph 11 (b)
of the list of issues had not been cited by the delegation in its reply. She
wished to know to what extent Australia had institutionalized human rights
teaching at the various levels of education. She also asked for specific
illustrations of the exact nature of the negotiation process that took place
between the Federal Government and the State authorities with a view to
hammering out policies to surmount the various impediments to realization of
the right to education. Lastly, a flourishing programme of arts exchanges
existed between her country and Australia, involving painters, sculptors,
weavers and other craftsmen. She was curious to know why, in spite of the
wide range of indigenous themes embraced by those artists, no genuine
representative of the Australian indigenous groups had ever participated in
the programme.
54. Mrs. JIMENEZ BUTRAGUEÑO asked what importance was attached in Australia
to the continuing education of adults with a view to improving their
occupational skills or providing vocational retraining. Regarding the
elderly, she asked what proportion of students in Australian universities were
elderly persons; and whether use was made of their experience by providing
them with opportunities to work as volunteers in social and humanitarian
projects. Were special facilities, such as free admission, extended to
elderly persons wishing to attend cultural events; and were elderly persons
used as transmitters, rather than merely as recipients, of culture?
55. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Australian delegation to respond to members’
oral questions.
56. Mr. JONES (Australia) said that the provision in Australian law regarding
censorship was intended as a reserve power for a contingency that had never in
practice arisen. That reserve power could in any case be challenged in the
courts if it were deemed by some to be illiberal. As a former Minister of
Customs, he could not recall any case having arisen, during his three years
as Minister, of any work of art, film or book being held up by customs.
Australia had taken a liberal - some might say excessively liberal - stance.
The major issue in recent years had been access to pornographic video
material: Federal law prohibited the importation of such material, and States
had passed legislation prohibiting its sale or hire. However, the question
arose whether interception by the postal authorities of pornographic material
posted from one State to another might not constitute an impediment to
communications between States, and thus be prohibited under the Constitution.
That question had not yet been resolved.
The meeting rose at 6 p.m.