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cartoon Eleanor Roosvelt holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Human Rights Day

On 10 December 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)  The UDHR is an international document that recognises the basic rights and fundamental freedoms to which all human beings are entitled, and marks a key milestone in the history of human rights.

The main purpose of the UDHR was to create a universally agreed outline of human rights. In its opening sentence, the UDHR recognises that 'the inherent dignity of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world'. There are 30 articles in the UDHR, which lay out different rights that everyone is entitled to. They include civil and political rights, like the right to life, liberty, free speech and privacy. It also includes economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to social security, health and education. Australia played a key role in the founding of the United Nations and the drafting the UDHR.

The 10th of December also marks the anniversary of several other significant human rights related achievements such as the establishment of the Australian Human Rights Commission on permanent footing in 1986, Prime Minister Keating’s Redfern Address (1992) on the discrimination and exclusion faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984).

Setting aside a day to commemorate, educate and reflect on the principles that form the UDHR means celebrating the rights we exercise everyday as Australians, and acknowledging that enjoying those rights carries with it the responsibility of promoting these rights for all people.