The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2021/22. This report documented the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2021, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty International’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. 


The rights of Indigenous peoples, refugees and asylum seekers continued to be violated. Proposed new legislation threatened to further entrench discrimination against LGBTI people. Government responses to sexual and gender-based violence against women remained inadequate. No one was held accountable for alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan.


Lockdown measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic continued for much of the year in major cities. Stringent border restrictions also remained in place. In April, all arrivals from India were halted due to the Delta variant outbreak there. Critics described this government action as racist and xenophobic because it did not impose such comprehensive bans on travel from other destinations with similar outbreaks.

Indigenous peoples’ rights

The government’s first progress report on the “Closing the Gap Agreement”, published in July, showed that targets for reducing incarceration rates of adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by at least 15% had not been met. Whereas detention levels among Indigenous children dropped slightly, rates among adults increased.

Twenty-six Indigenous people were reported to have died in custody between July 2020 and June 2021, bringing the total number of deaths to at least 500 since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. No one had been held to account in relation to any of these deaths.

Children’s rights

Australia continued to detain children as young as 10 years old, but efforts to raise the age of criminal responsibility progressed. In October, the Australian Capital Territory committed to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

The brutal treatment of refugees and asylum seekers continued. This included their indefinite and arbitrary detention within Australia, and in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, although the government announced an end to offshore processing in Papua New Guinea by the end of the year. Those arriving by boat were not permitted to apply for asylum in Australia. The number of refugees accepted for resettlement decreased from 18,750 in 2020 to 13,750 in 2021.

In the context of the crisis in Myanmar, the government committed to temporarily extend visas of Myanmar citizens already in Australia, but did not permit family reunifications.


An Office of the Special Investigator was established to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016. However, no action had been taken by the end of the year against any of the 19 members of Australia’s special forces referred for investigation by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force in 2020.

LGBTI people’s rights

Attacks on the LGBTI community continued. The government announced plans to introduce a revised Bill on Religious Freedom that included provisions that would allow religious schools to refuse to hire or dismiss teachers on grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual and gender-based violence

In February a former staffer in the Federal Government revealed that she had been raped inside Parliament House in 2019. Although senior ministers were made aware of the allegations no action was taken against her alleged attacker at the time, who was only charged after the allegations became public. Recommendations, including for legislative reforms, made by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2020 following its inquiry into sexual harassment in the workplace had not been fully implemented by the end of the year.

Failure to tackle climate crisis

The government continued to fund coal and gas development projects, often in violation of Indigenous peoples’ rights whose land was affected. It failed to adopt carbon emission reduction targets consistent with its obligations under the Paris Agreement and human rights law, and its 2021-22 budget emphasized a “gas-led recovery” over renewable energy.

Australia Newsroom

November 21, 2018 • Report

Papua New Guinea: Australian and PNG leaders must act urgently to save lives on Manus Island

The misery of indefinite detention in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is pushing increasing numbers of refugees and people seeking asylum to suicide attempts and self-harm, a new report by the …

January 31, 2018 • Report

Punishment not protection: Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea

The Australian government has abandoned hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, leaving them in a situation that more closely resembles punishment instead of protection in Papua New Guinea, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

April 3, 2017 • Report

Treasure Island: How Companies Are Profiting from Australia’s Abuse of Refugees on Nauru

A major corporation responsible for running the Australian government’s refugee “processing” centre on Nauru is making millions of dollars from a system that amounts to torture of refugees and people seeking asylum, Amnesty International said today.

October 14, 2016 • Report

Australia’s regime of cruelty has turned Nauru into an open-air prison

The Australian government is subjecting refugees and asylum seekers to an elaborate and cruel system of abuse – brazenly flouting international law – just to keep them away from its …

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 15, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Australia 2013

Australia Head of state Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Head of government Julia Gillard Despite the establishment of a federal human rights committee to consider all new bills before Parliament, …

July 7, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Australia 2011

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Quentin Bryce Head of government: Julia Gillard (replaced Kevin Rudd in June) Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes Population: 21.5 million Life …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Australia 2010

Head of state Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Quentin Bryce Head of government Kevin Rudd Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes Population 21.3 million Life expectancy 81.4 years Under-5 mortality …

February 18, 2021 • Press Release

Facebook Blocks Australian News Sites From Being Shared on its Platform

Responding to Facebook blocking Australian news sites from being shared on its platform Amnesty International Australia campaigner Tim O’Connor said: