Friday, March 28, 2014

Human Rights Fail

It is important that there is a voice for the defenceless and the weak. So I am disgusted at the cynical exploitation of those people who have no voice by the patronising bodies that claim to speak for them.

I dislike racism and will not condone it. But the ridiculous legislation that is supposed to address it in Australia does not. Instead, it is abused to attack those who would speak against racism. Outlawing bad behaviour is stupid. Good people will be persuaded by sound argument. And anyone who does not accept that has no place in a liberal democracy.

Australian Human Rights Commission
25 March 2014""

Changes to the Racial Discrimination Act

young boys wearing football jerseys holding campaign coasters
The Commission welcomes today’s release by the Attorney-General of the exposure draft on changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.
There was an increase in complaints received by the Commission under the Racial Discrimination Act in the previous financial year, with a significant increase in complaints relating to material on the internet.
“The RDA provides a vital protection against racism and vilification in the community. The Commission reiterates the importance of ensuring effective protections exist,” said President Triggs.
The Commission notes the Attorney’s intention is to strengthen the Act’s protections against racism, while also removing provisions that the Attorney sees as unreasonably limiting freedom of speech.
“Finding a balance between these important issues is challenging and appropriately a matter for community debate” said Professor Triggs.
The Commission will make a comprehensive submission to the Attorney on the exposure draft in the coming weeks.
“We welcome the opportunity for community consultation on these important proposals. The Commission will look to facilitate broad public discussion on the changes”, said President Gillian Triggs.
“On first impression, the bill reduces the level of protection by providing a narrow definition of vilification and by limiting intimidation to causing fear of physical harm.”
“It is not clear why intimidation should not include the psychological and emotional damage that can be caused by racial abuse.”
Of particular concern is the scope of the exemption in proposed s18(4).  
“This provision is so broad it is difficult to see any circumstances in public that these protections would apply.”
The Commission’s existing complaint processes under the RDA provide access to justice through swift and cost effective dispute resolution.
“It would be a shame for people to be denied the opportunity to use these processes. Instead, they would have to rely upon defamation and other much more costly and inaccessible legal remedies,” said Professor Triggs.
“The Commission sees a need for ongoing anti-racism campaigns and education alongside the legal protections. We look forward to continuing to lead the Racism, It Stops with me campaign which has enjoyed broad public support,” said Professor Triggs.
Racism It Stops With Me

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Australian Human Rights Commission
March 25 2014""


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Children on Christmas Island ‘visibly distressed’, inquiry finds

painted image of detained child behind wire fence, grasping it
The Australian Human Rights Commission recently visited children in detention on Christmas Island as part of the Commission’s national inquiry into children in immigration detention.
Commission president, Professor Gillian Triggs, found most of the 315 children in immigration detention on Christmas Island have been in detention for six to eight months.
Most of the children were visibly distressed.
They told the Commission team “this place is hell”, “help me get out of here” and “there’s no school, nowhere to play and nothing to do.” The children also spoke about their distress at living in closed environment with adults who were sad, angry and self-harming.
On April 4, Professor Triggs will chair the first of the Commission’s public hearings into children in immigration detention.   
The inquiry will hear from experts including doctors, psychiatrists, educators, and key NGOs. The inquiry will also hear from people who have been in detention as children.
Inquiry venue:  Australian Human Rights Commission, Level 3, 175 Pitt St Sydney
Date and time: 4 April9am - 5pm
The public is welcome to attend as observers. Please

Record show of support for Close the Gap

Aboriginal man kisses his baby
An estimated 150,000 Australians supported Close the Gap Day events around the country last week. It was the largest show yet of public support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality.
The record show of support sent a clear message to Government that the community expects Indigenous health to remain a national priority in the lead-up to the federal budget, according to the Close the Gap Campaign co-chairs Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker.
Mr Gooda, who is also the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, said any cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health at the federal, state or territory level would undermine the improvements just starting to emerge in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Commission President addresses UN Council

Gillian Triggs
The Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs addressed the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 21 March, commending the Australian Government for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and for appointing Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner.
Making her address by video, Professor Triggs updated the Human Rights Council on the status of implementation of the recommendations made to Australia during its first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) appearance.
She noted that mandatory immigration detention and the transfer of asylum seekers including unaccompanied children to third countries for processing remains one of Australia’s biggest human rights challenges.
The Commission also lodged its 2013 UPR Progress Reportwith the Human Rights Council. This report was prepared in consultation with the Australian Council of Human Rights Agencies, a body that brings together all Commonwealth, State and Territory anti-discrimination and human rights bodies.

New resource to assist with gender diversity

It starts with us. The leadership shadow from Male Champions of Change
The Male Champions of Change have partnered with Chief Executive Women to launch a resource called The Leadership Shadow, designed to help leaders to listen, learn and lead by understanding the impact of their actions.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said: “While no-one disputes the need to boost the number of women in senior roles, few leaders understand how to create an organisational culture that values, nurtures and attracts talented female executives.”
She said the question most leaders ask is: “Where do I start?”

Harmony Day: celebrating diversity and combatting racism

Tim Soutphommasane with large group holding up Racism. It Stops With Me banners
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane celebrated Harmony Day on 21 March and called on Australians to remain mindful of the impact racism has on our society.
“The public response to recent incidents of vilification shows that the majority of Australians reject hate and division. Let’s remember there are practical things all of us can do to counter prejudice and discrimination,” Dr Soutphommasane said.
In a Harmony Day speech delivered at a Macquarie University symposium, Dr Soutphommasane said it is important that we respond to racism with an emphatic message. “When racism happens, it diminishes not only the freedom of those on the receiving end, but it diminishes all of us. It diminishes the harmony that is the ingredient of any cohesive multicultural society.”
Earlier in the week, the City Of Ryde joined forces with some of Australia’s leading businesses, sporting bodies and NGO’s to support the Racism. It stops with Me campaign.
The City of Ryde is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse local government areas in Sydney, with more than a third of residents coming from non-English speaking backgrounds.

Business leaders can help defeat ageism, says Commissioner

Business man writing Risk and Reward on screen
Age Discrimination Commissioner Susan Ryan told a Business Breakfast in Canberra last week that the business community has a very powerful role to play in defeating ageism.
“Dramatically increased longevity here in Australia is posing many challenges to all of us; to business, to government, to our community and to us as individuals,” Commissioner Ryan said.
“Aside from worrying our federal parliament in terms of budget outlays for pensions and aged care, this longer life should be welcomed - older Australians in their 60s and beyond, once the traditional ‘retirement age’, are more active and more affluent than ever, presenting business with massive opportunities too important to be ignored.”
Commissioner Ryan said that older people are a valuable source of skilled, experienced and committed employees for business and an under-targeted set of consumers.

Recent media releases

Recent speeches

Recent submissions

Get involved - upcoming events

For the latest media releases, speeches, opinion pieces, go to the media centre on the Commission’s website at: and for events go to

Australian Human Rights Commission
28 March 2014""

Come to one of our RightsTalks in April

RightsTalk is series of discussions on topical human rights issues, open to the public. Register now for these free talks in April:

Khmer Rouge on Trial

Khmer Rouge
Tarik Abdulhak, an Australian lawyer who has been working at international criminal tribunals since 2004, will present aRightsTalk on 14 April focused on the alleged Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia.
Mr Abdulhak is a lead prosecution counsel in the trials before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). He will talk about the mass crime trials before the ECCC, including Case 002, which involves the surviving senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, which ruled Cambodia for less than four years from 1975, is alleged to have caused the deaths of between 1.75 and 2.2 million people through physical and psychological abuse, starvation, forced labour and executions.
Date: Monday 14 April
Time: 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Cost: Free
Venue: Australian Human Rights Commission, Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney.
More details and registration

A Right to Freedom from Corruption

David Kinley
One Wednesday 30 April, Professor David Kinley will explain why we need a right to freedom from corruption.
In this RightsTalk, Professor Kinley will argue that global corruption has reached staggering proportions, with illicit money flowing out of developing countries over the past decade calculated to be US$8.44 trillion. As a result, governments are compromised, the law perverted, and human rights trampled.
But rather than be a victim of this global "plague" (as Kofi Annan called it), can human rights contribute to its cure? Professor Kinley says it can, by way of the creation of a new, free-standing human right in international law - a "right to freedom from corruption".
Date: Wednesday 30 April
Time: 12:30pm - 1:30pm
Cost: Free
Venue: Australian Human Rights Commission, Level 3, 175 Pitt Street, Sydney.


For more information, and bookings, please call the Australian Human Rights Commission on (02) 9284 9779 or email

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