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Giridharan Sivaraman commences as Race Discrimination Commissioner

Race Discrimination
Photo of Commissioner Giridharan Sivaraman, smiling and looking towards camera with blue background
Content type: Media Release
Topic(s): Race Discrimination

Australia’s new Race Discrimination Commissioner, Giridharan Sivaraman, said a united approach to anti-racism was essential if our society is to better address and ultimately dismantle systemic racial discrimination in all its forms. 

Commissioner Sivaraman, who commenced in the role today, said his immediate priority will be to progress a National Anti-Racism Framework as a central reference point to help guide Australia’s collective efforts to comprehensively combat racism.

Commissioner Sivaraman, who was born in India and migrated to Australia as a child, said his anti-discrimination legal and advocacy work is based on his strong passion for human rights, as well as his moral conviction to speak truth to power and fight for the rights of the marginalised, oppressed, and vilified.

Commissioner Sivaraman has vowed to work collaboratively with government, community groups, stakeholders, and wider society to promote and protect the equal rights of people from First Nations communities and migrant, refugee or faith-based backgrounds who are negatively racialised.

“Australia urgently needs a national, coordinated approach to anti-racism that must be legally adhered to and empowers people to take meaningful action,” Commissioner Sivaraman said.

“I commit to continue building the groundwork for a National Anti-Racism Strategy through supporting the development of Australia’s first National Anti-Racism Framework and undertaking related education and public awareness work. This will be a major focus for me and my team. 

“I will listen to communities across the country to understand their concerns and proposed solutions. My priority is to ensure people feel comfortable to speak to me. I am here to listen; to bear witness to the lived experiences of communities, and then see if and how we can take action." 

Prior to becoming Commissioner, Mr Sivaraman was Principal Lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, where he led the firm’s Queensland Employment Law department. He also held the position of Chair of Multicultural Australia from 2021-2024 and was a member of the Queensland Multicultural Advisory Council from 2019-2024, where he was an advocate for the rights of victims of racial vilification.

“We need to be honest about the existence of racism in our society, and the structural and systemic barriers people face in daily life. This includes in employment opportunities and in the spheres of politics and public policy. It is our collective responsibility to dismantle racism in all its forms.

“The subject of racism is always a sensitive one, and in recent times it has seemed to become even more so. From the fallout surrounding the Voice referendum, to reports of rising racism, there is currently a concerning level of vitriol and division in Australia.

“I personally have experienced racism first-hand. It is a source of pain that no-one should ever have to endure. But this can only be addressed if we come together with respect front of mind.” 

The Race Discrimination Commissioner is a statutory position within the Australian Human Rights Commission. Under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) (RDA), this position is responsible for promoting equality between people of different backgrounds, conducting research and educational programs to combat racial discrimination, and protecting people from unfair treatment or vilification on the basis of their race, colour, descent, visa status, or national or ethnic origin. 

“Almost 50 years since the RDA was first enacted, it is an immense honour to take on this role,” Commissioner Sivaraman said.

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