IHRA upgrades Australia

December 1, 2017 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an inter-governmental body with 31 member countries, unanimously agreed to upgrade Australia’s status in the organisation from Observer to Liaison status.

Pauline Rockman, Dr Steven Cooke, Ambassador Lynette Wood, Dr Donna-Lee Frieze, Suzanne Hampel, Prof Suzanne Rutland and Dr Andre Oboler, withDr Francois Wisard, the Head of the Swiss Delegation, IHRA Chair from Switzerland and Sir Eric Pickles, Head of the British Delegation, fourth and fifth from the left.”

The decision, announced in Bern, Switzerland, follows three years of engagement by Australian diplomats and experts under the leadership of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and encouragement from Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to deepen that engagement.

Consideration of Australia’s upgrade in status included a review of Holocaust education, research and memorialisation. The review was undertaken by Australia’s experts to IHRA, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and diplomats from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Human Rights Branch. The level of Holocaust education activity in Australia was praised by members of IHRA..

Ambassador Lynette Wood, head of Australia’s delegation to IHRA and Australian Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, welcomed the decision and highlighted the education programs run by Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre and the Sydney Jewish Museum, as well as the Gandel Holocaust Studies program under which over 220 teachers have attended expert training in Holocaust education at Yad Vashem.

Australia was mentored through the application process by the delegation of the United Kingdom, led by Sir Eric Pickles the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues. The mentorship will continue as Australia moves towards full membership of IHRA, a process which will include the implementation of new projects of education, commemoration and research into the Holocaust in partnership with leading international institutions.

Executive director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim said: “Mazel tov to Suzanne Rutland, Andre Oboler and the whole team of experts who played such a crucial role in this achievement.  It’s also great to see the contribution of the ECAJ acknowledged by the government.

One of the many benefits of this upgrade is that it will further affirm the acceptance by Australia of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.”

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