Human Rights Watch, an international investigative and reporting organisation, says that it has “significant human rights concerns” about Australia’s treatment of refugees and Aboriginal people. 

Essentially a rap sheet of crimes, HRW’s 2024 World Report begins with the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. In June, the last person held on Nauru was evacuated to Australia after eleven years in detention, only for new groups of people to be sent back to the island just three months later. 

$1.5 billion has been pledged over the next four years for offshore detention facilities, in which refugees and asylum seekers previously have been subjected to sexual abuse and extreme violence.

In November, after the High Court ruled that indefinite immigration detention is unlawful, the government implemented a new “preventive detention” regime. It places additional restrictions and surveillance on freed people, forcing them to wear electronic tracking bracelets and abide by curfews. Failure to comply with these conditions would constitute a visa breach, punishable by jail. 

The report also addresses discrimination against Indigenous people, noting that Indigenous people are overrepresented in the justice system, making up nearly one-third of the prison population while being just 3 percent of the national population. 

At least nineteen Indigenous people died in custody in 2023, the highest number in fifteen years. This included a 16-year-old boy who died after self-harming in Unit 18, the youth wing of a maximum-security prison in Western Australia, while prison staff were watching movies. 

In September, the Queensland Labor government suspended the Human Rights Act for a second time so that children could be held indefinitely in adult police watch houses. Changes in youth justice laws reportedly have led to more children being detained than can be accommodated by existing facilities.