Australia becomes 33rd member of IHRA

Late on Tuesday night, 4 June 2019, Australia was admitted as the thirty-third membership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) following a unanimous vote of the plenary in Luxembourg. This has been a four-year process supported by the United Kingdom, as Australia’s mentor, led by Lord Eric Pickles.

IHRA is the international and intergovernmental body promoting Holocaust education, remembrance and research and countering antisemitism, racism and anti-Roma and Sinti prejudice.  IHRA grew out of the Stockholm Declaration, an initiative of the Swedish government to ensure that countries remember and educate their citizens about the Holocaust and its universal messages.

Over the period of Australia’s involvement, we have seen the adoption of the working definition of antisemitism by IHRA, the European Union, and a range of national governments and organisations around the world, including the National Union of Students in Australia.

Dr Andre Oboler, CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute and a Senior Lecturer at La Trobe University, has served an expert member of Australia’s delegation over these four years. Commenting on the new status in IHRA Dr Oboler said, “It was a proud moment as the the other 32 countries welcomed Australia, our head of delegation was moved from the observers table to a seat at the main table and our flag was add to the row of flags of IHRA member countries. Lord Pickles commented on Australia’s contributions to IHRA, including our efforts to monitor online hate, work I’ve led using OHPI’s online reporting tools. The support and interest from the experts and diplomats at IHRA for the new ideas Australia brings to the table is inspiring.”

Now that Australia is a full member, with a seat at the table, we are able to full participate in IHRA’s efforts to formulate policies, plans and programs advancing Holocaust education, commemoration and research. This is particularly important given the large number of Holocaust survivors and their descendants in Australia. Membership also provides a mandate to further enhance Australia’s efforts in Holocaust education and commemoration with the support through IHRA of leading experts from around the world.

The Australian government’s commitment to IHRA enjoys bi-partisan support and is facilitated through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The Head of the Australian delegation is Lynette Wood, Ambassador to Germany.  After the acceptance at the plenary, she read a statement from Foreign Minister, Senator Marise Payne, and conveyed the Australian government’s appreciation of the support of the UK delegation, led by Lord Pickles, and the passion and dedication of the Australian expert delegation. She also noted that Australia was the first Indo-Pacific nation to join IHRA.

The IHRA chair, Georges Santer, welcomed Australia bringing the fifth continent into the organisation and commended Australia on its participation.

Australian Delegation with Lord Pickles
From l to r: Dr Steven Cooke, Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland OAM, Dr Avril Alba, Dr Donna-Lee Frieze, Amb. Lynette Wood (Head of Australian delegation), Lord Eric Pickles (Head of UK delegation), Pauline Rockman OAM, Ciaran Chestnutt, DFAT, Sue Hampel OAM and Dr Andre Oboler.

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