• The Juukan Gorge rock shelters in Western Australia in 2015. The 46,000-year-old caves were destroyed by mining giant Rio Tinto in May 2020. (PKKP AND ABORIGINAL CORPORATION)Source: PKKP AND ABORIGINAL CORPORATION
Of particular concern was business handling of human rights issues surrounding Indigenous people in Australia.

Many Australian businesses are failing to adequately meet their international human rights obligations, a new report has found.

The report, released on Thursday by the Australian Human Rights Commission, urged many businesses to take issues over human rights more seriously, expressing concern about aspects such as modern slavery practices and the land rights of Indigenous people.

The report was released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights being formally adopted.

Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute Justine Nolan said more accountability was needed from businesses in the country to prevent human rights abuses.

"There is still a significant gap in translating human rights policies into practice," Professor Nolan said.

"The pandemic has highlighted the need for stronger social safeguards and a people-centred approach to business."

The report recommended the federal government ensure businesses meet their human rights responsibilities by strengthening modern slavery enforcement, and legislate human rights due diligence by companies.

"While some positive legislative and policy developments have occurred over the last decade, the approach to date has been ad hoc and lacked cohesion," the report said.

"For many Australian businesses, a voluntary 'corporate social responsibility' mindset remains prevalent and awareness of UN guiding principles is low."

Of particular concern was business handling of human rights issues surrounding Indigenous people in Australia.

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The report highlighted the destruction of Indigenous land and cultural sites, such as Juukan Gorge in 2020 by mining company Rio Tinto, as part of the wider issue.

"There are many examples where companies have failed to engage in meaningful human rights due diligence processes and obtain free, prior and informed consent before permanently destroying culturally significant sites," the report said.

"Access to justice and compensation for land dispossession is a key area of 'unfinished business' that remains unresolved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."

The commission's report called for greater accountability from major corporations as well as ensuring human right abuse victims had access to remedies.

"Despite some key areas of progress, much work remains to be done to address the significant governance gaps in corporate accountability for adverse human rights impacts," the report said.

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