Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

Australia among first to sign UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Alexander Downer MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • The Hon Philip Ruddock MP, Attorney-General

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General, and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs are pleased to announce that Australia will sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in a formal ceremony opening the Convention for signature to be held on 30 March 2007 at the UN Headquarters in New York.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs praised the work of the official Australian delegations involved in the successful treaty negotiations held over the past five years. "I am particularly pleased that Australia is signing this treaty, given Australia’s leadership role in its negotiation," Mr Downer said. "Australians with disability now have a dedicated treaty to protect their rights. What makes this a particularly meaningful achievement is that representatives from the disability sector helped to shape and strengthen this treaty through their participation in Australian delegations at UN negotiations," Mr Downer said.

The Attorney-General emphasised the importance of this initiative. "The significance of the Convention is reflected in the fact that it is the first comprehensive human rights convention of the 21st century. It is the first multilateral treaty focussed on the rights of people with disability, and has the potential to protect the rights of 650 million people with disability worldwide. The signing of this Convention reinforces Australia’s long standing commitment to eliminate, as far as possible, discrimination against people with disability," Mr Ruddock said.

The delegations, comprising Australian Government officials and representatives of the disability sector and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, participated in all eight sessions of the Ad Hoc Committee between 2002 and 2006.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs acknowledged the valuable contribution to the Convention made by representatives of the disability sector and State and Territory governments. "The Australian Government consulted widely with domestic stakeholders including disability sector representatives, human rights, legal and business groups and State and Territory governments, all of whose contributions helped inform Australia’s position on issues related to the UN Convention. All worked towards a common goal and should be congratulated on their achievement," Mr Brough said.

All Ministers agreed that the signing of the Convention is an important step in the international commitment to safeguarding rights for people with disability.

The stated purpose of the Convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, for all persons with disability, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.

Following signing of the treaty, Australia will commence the usual processes necessary for domestic consideration of the Convention, which are required before a decision can be made on ratification.

Australia will be represented at the signing ceremony by His Excellency the Hon Robert Hill, Australia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.