The work of La Trobe University Law School cyber-security expert Dr Andre Oboler in tackling online Holocaust denial and distortion, has been recognised as one of the positive contributions Australia has been making to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
This acknowledgement of Dr Oboler’s work was made on Tuesday night (4 June) in Luxembourg, as the member states of IHRA voted unanimously to admit Australia as their 33rd member state, after four years of diplomatic engagement.
This four-year process has been supported by the United Kingdom, as Australia’s mentor, led by Lord Eric Pickles.
Dr Andre Oboler, who attended the meeting in Luxembourg and who is also CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI), has served as an expert member of Australia’s delegation over these four years.
Dr Oboler’s work tackling online Holocaust denial and distortion in a project using online reporting tools, is run on behalf of the Australian Government as part of its commitment to IHRA. Last week the software was translated into Italian for use by experts based in Milan, to support Italy’s delegation to IHRA.
Dr Oboler commented on Australia’s new status in the IHRA.
“It was a proud moment as 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,” Dr Oboler said.
“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, it is able to fully 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 significance, however, goes beyond this, Dr Oboler said.
“In our application we also addressed contemporary antisemitism, including the rise of antisemitism in Australia, sharing research from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry which produces an annual report on antisemitism incidents in Australia,” Dr Oboler said.
“Genocide scholars in other country’s delegations have asked about Australia’s past and highlighted lessons we might learn from Europe’s response to the Holocaust when it comes to facing darkness in our own history in regard to Indigenous Australians.
“Having the support of colleagues, in both the expert and diplomatic community when such difficult issues are discussed is of immense value.”
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, there has been 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.
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.
Photo caption: Australian Delegation with Lord Pickles. 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.