This weekend, Sharon Abraham-Weiss from our flagship grantee the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) arrives in Australia to discuss the concept of the ‘shrinking democratic space’.
Even though we applied for a visa for Sharon Abraham-Weiss almost nine weeks ago – a visa that usually takes 10 days to process – it wasn’t granted until yesterday, two days before her flight to Australia.
We don’t know exactly why – and we probably never will – but it seems that someone in the Australian government didn’t want her to enter the country. We have been led to understand that Sharon’s case was “complicated” because of her activism.
Increasingly, governments around the world are seeking to narrow the conversation. Restrict it to their terms. Delegitimise opposition. Deny civil society funding. Limit the right to advocate for changes in government policy.
These are the symptoms of what experts have labelled the shrinking democratic space. It’s what Sharon will be discussing with us in Australia.
It took lots of pressure that shouldn’t have been necessary: calls to MPs, government officials and journalists just to get a visa for a respected civil rights lawyer.
Every democracy has human rights issues – including Israel, Australia and the United States – and citizens who stand up for the rights of others should be heard, not refused visas.
But in 2018, voices that challenge the status quo are often marginalised or denied a platform.
We’re proud to support Sharon Abraham-Weiss and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
Australia should welcome voices like hers, as well as those of people like former Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs, and lawyer and commentator Josh Bornstein, both of whom are joining Sharon to discuss the growing challenges to democracy next week.