Australian Human Rights Commission

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"Equal Opportunity Commission" redirects here. For the United States's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, see Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is a national human rights institution, established in 1986 as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and renamed in 2008. It is a statutory body funded by, but operating independently of, the Australian Government. It has the responsibility for investigating alleged infringements under Australia’s anti-discrimination legislation. Matters that can be investigated by the Commission under the Australian Human Rights Commission Regulations 1989 include "discrimination on the grounds of race or nationality, religious, colour or ethnic origin, racial vilification, age, sex or gender, sexual harassment, marital or relationship status, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, actual or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding, trade union activity, criminal record, medical record, impairment or physical disability".[1]


Commission officebearers[edit]

The Commission falls under the portfolio of the Attorney-General of Australia.

Commission Presidents[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as President of the Human Rights Commission, and its precedent organisation:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Hon. Justice Marcus Einfeld QC1 President, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1986–1990
2 Sir Ronald Wilson AC KBE CMG QC 1990–1998
3 Professor Alice Tay AM 1998–2003
4 Hon. Justice John von Doussa AO QC 2003–2008
5 The Hon. Catherine Branson QC President, Australian Human Rights Commission 2008–2012
6 Professor Gillian Triggs 2012–present
1 Einfield was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1997. However, his commission was revoked on 26 November 2008.[3]

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioners[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Mick Dodson AM Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner 1993–1998
2 Zita Antonios 1998–1999 (acting)
3 Dr Bil Jonas AM 1999–2004
4 Tom Calma 2004–2010
5 Mick Gooda 2010–present

Disability Discrimination Commissioners[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as a Disability Discrimination Commissioners:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Elizabeth Hastings Disability Discrimination Commissioner 1993–1997
2 Chris Sidoti 1998 (acting)
3 Susan Halliday 1999 (acting)
4 Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM 2000–2005 (acting)
5 Graeme Innes AM 2005–present

Human Rights Commissioners[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as a Human Rights Commissioner:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Brian Burdekin AO Human Rights Commissioner 1986–1994
2 Chris Sidoti 1995–2000
3 Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM 2000–2005
4 Graeme Innes AM 2005–2009
5 The Hon. Catherine Branson QC 2009–2012
6 Tim Wilson 2013–Present

Race Discrimination Commissioners[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as a Race Discrimination Commissioner:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Irene Moss AO Race Discrimination Commissioner 1986–1994
2 Zita Antonios 1994–1999
3 Dr Bill Jonas AM 1999–2004 (acting)
4 Tom Calma 2004–2009
5 Graeme Innes AM 2009–2011
6 Dr Helen Szoke 2011–2013
7 Professor Gillian Triggs 2013 (acting)
8 Dr Tim Soutphommasane 2013–present

Sex Discrimination Commissioners[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as a Sex Discrimination Commissioner:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Pam O'Neill Sex Discrimination Commissioner 1984–1988
2 Quentin Bryce AC 1988–1993
3 Susan Walpole 1993–1997
4 Moira Scollay 1997–1998 (acting)
5 Susan Halliday 1998–2001
6 Pru Goward 2001–2007
7 Hon. Justice John von Doussa AO QC 2007 (acting)
8 Elizabeth Broderick 2007–present

Age Discrimination Commissioner[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as an Age Discrimination Commissioner, or precedent titles:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Pru Goward Commissioner Responsible for Age Discrimination 2005–2007
2 Hon. Justice John von Doussa AO QC 2007 (acting)
3 Elizabeth Broderick 2007–2011
4 The Hon. Susan Ryan AO Age Discrimination Commissioner 2011–present

National Children's Commissioner[edit]

The following individuals have been appointed as a National Children's Commissioner:[2]

Order Official Official title Term
1 Megan Mitchell National Children's Commissioner 2013–present

Legislation[edit]

The Commission investigates alleged infringements under the following federal legislation:

Public inquiries[edit]

One of the more visible functions of the Commission is to conduct public inquiries. Some examples of inquires conducted include:

  • Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry into financial and workplace discrimination against same-sex couples
  • Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families
  • National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
  • Homeless Children Inquiry
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Inquiry
  • Inquiry into the Accessibility of electronic commerce and new service and information technologies for older Australians and people with a disability
  • Inquiry into Human Rights and Good Governance Education in the Asia Pacific Region
  • MacLennan-Hookham suspension

Gender identity and sexuality[edit]

Private members bills introduced from both the Australian Greens and the Australian Democrats have tried to add sexuality and/or gender identity to the list of matters that can be investigated by the Commission, which has always failed to pass at least one house of parliament since 1995, because of a lack of support from both the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition in the federal parliament.[4]

In late 2010, the Gillard Labor Government announced that it is undertaking a review of federal anti-discrimination laws, with the aim of introducing a single equality act that would include sexual orientation and gender identity.[5] This was abandoned and instead the Gillard Labor Government introduced another bill - which is mentioned below.

On 25 June 2013, the Australian Federal Parliament passed the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 with overwhelming support in both houses and became law from Royal Assent three days later by the Governor-General. Then became effective from August 1, 2013, making discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and for the first time in the world, Intersex people illegal at a national level. Aged care providers who are owned by religious groups will no longer be able to exclude people from aged care services based on their LGBTI or same-sex relationship status. However, religious owned private schools and religious owned hospitals are exempt from gender identity and sexual orientation provisions[6] in the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013.[7] No religious exemptions exist on the basis of intersex status.[6]

Human Rights Medals and Awards[edit]

Since 1987 the Human Rights Medal and other awards have been presented at the Commission’s annual Human Rights Medal and Awards ceremony.

The Human Rights Medal is awarded to individuals "for their outstanding contribution to human rights in Australia".

In 2008 the Young People’s Human Rights Medal was awarded for the first time.

Other awards are:

  • Human Rights Community (Individual) Award.
  • Human Rights Community (Organisation) Award.
  • Human Rights Radio Award
  • Human Rights Television Award
  • Human Rights Print Media Award
  • Human Rights Arts Non-Fiction Award
  • Human Rights Law Award - sponsored by the Law Council of Australia

International status[edit]

The Commission is one of some 70 national human rights institutions (NHRIs) accredited by the International Co-ordinating Committee of NHRIs (ICC), a body sponsored by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The Commission's "A status" accreditation allows it special access to the United Nations human rights system, including speaking rights at the Human Rights Council and other committees. The Commission can present parallel reports ("shadow reports") to UN treaty committees examining Australia's compliance with international human rights instruments. It has been very active in developing NHRIs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, and is a leading member of the Asia Pacific Forum of NHRIs, one of four regional sub-groups of NHRIs.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Previous Office Holders". President & Commissioners. Australian Human Rights Commission. 2013. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Einfeld stripped of QC status". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008. 
  4. ^ Australian DemocratsAustralian Democrats Press Releases
  5. ^ Red Book plan a step towards gay marriage, The Australian, 15 December 2010
  6. ^ a b Australian Parliament, Explanatory Memorandum to the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013, 2013
  7. ^ Australia outlaws LGBT discrimination under national laws for first time, 25 June 2013

External links[edit]