We have heard the words human rights quite a lot in recent weeks, in varied and sometimes inaccurate settings.
Measures to protect our health and safety must be balanced with our rights and freedoms, but if there was ever a time to articulate where that line is, it would be now. Which is why last week, I took the step of writing a piece for a mainstream publication.
While the pandemic continues, my colleagues and I are attending meetings, events and webinars ‘in 2D’ – virtually. Like many of you, our kitchens, children's playrooms and patios (whatever space we can find) have served more purposes than we could ever have dreamt of!
For an update on what we've been doing from our makeshift offices and to find out about the incoming National Children's Commissioner, click here.
Finally, the Commission is here to help and our National Information Service is available to assist. More details can be found here. Plus, here is an overview of some of the key issues, initiatives, and projects we are working on to look after the human rights of everyone, everywhere, everyday.
Until next time, stay safe, well and connected.
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Dr Ben Gauntlett
Good disability policy benefits everyone
The necessary restrictions that have been imposed on all of us during the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the challenges faced by Australians with disability, and the need for comprehensive and rigorously implemented disability policy.
Australia’s disability policy should have the flexibility to respond to disasters with an inherent understanding of human rights.
To read the full article click here >>
Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson
In the lead up to the COAG meeting on Monday 27 July, Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr Kay Patterson AO called on federal, state and territory Attorneys General to act urgently to implement the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) recommendations on enduring powers of attorney. Dr Patterson was interviewed on ABC Radio National’s World Today and AM shows and on 6PR Perth about the issue.
Dr Patterson has also been talking to peak bodies, industry groups and frontline organisations about the effects of COVID-19 on her other two focus areas as Commissioner: older women and homelessness, and age discrimination and the workforce.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO
Commissioner Oscar welcomes the signing of the new national agreement on Closing the Gap last week and commends Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and the governments involved. Genuine partnership is a good first step. Implementation of the priority reforms and adequate investment will be critical to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Commissioner Oscar welcomed last month’s decision by federal regulators to mandate effective warnings on alcohol products to inform pregnant women and the wider community of the dangers of alcohol to unborn babies.
While this opportunity was grasped, the Council of Attorneys-General delayed a decision to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from the age of 10. The Commissioner holds the position that no children, of any age, belong in prison and that cultural, medical and trauma-informed responses will result in improved outcomes.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan
Commissioner Tan has begun working on a new National Anti-Racism Strategy, which will provide a national focus for tackling racism and a coordinated approach from government, the private sector and advocacy groups. Among Commissioner Tan’s many online speaking engagements this month was a talk with Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Kristina Keneally about coordinating and improving the collection of hate crime data across Australian jurisdictions.
Following recent racially motivated attacks against international students, Commissioner Tan has begun reviewing the Commission’s principles to promote and protect the human rights of international students. The Race Discrimination team will soon launch the refreshed Racism. It Stops With Me website.
Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow
Commissioner Santow gave evidence on behalf of the Commission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security regarding the ASIO Amendment Bill 2020. He also wrote an opinion piece in the Canberra Times and gave evidence to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee on the Migration Amendment (Prohibiting Items in Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2020. You can read the Commission’s submissions on both Bills on our website.
The Commission also released a statement calling for refugees and asylum seekers who do not pose a security risk to be released from immigration detention centres during COVID-19. Commissioner Santow spoke to SBS about the issue.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins
On July 30, it was announced that Gymnastics Australia had engaged the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent review of the sport of gymnastics in Australia.
This review will build an understanding of the culture of gymnastics in Australia at all levels of the sport, consider any barriers to reporting misconduct and abuse, and hear the experiences of athletes and members of the gymnastics community past and present. It will be undertaken by a dedicated team of Commission staff with relevant expertise in conducting cultural reviews, led by Commissioner Jenkins with input from the National Children’s Commissioner.
The Commission is in the process of establishing the review process, and will share more information about how people can engage with the process shortly. More information is available at humanrights.gov.au/gymnastics.
Human Rights Awards 2020
Every year the Commission holds the Human Rights Awards to celebrate human rights achievements. However, given the extraordinary circumstances of 2020 we believe a different approach is needed to celebrate the many human rights heroes who have emerged this year. More details and announcements will be coming soon! Stay connected by following us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Upholding the rights of older workers - employer training
With support from the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, the Commission has developed an online training package on Upholding the rights of older workers. Access to this online training package is free of charge. Want to know more? Submit your interest online here to receive further information!