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Annual Report 2008-2009: Milestones

Annual Report 2008-2009

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2008-09 Milestones

  • Ms Catherine Branson QC was appointed as President of the Australian Human
    Rights Commission on 7 August 2008 and commenced her five-year term on 14
    October 2008.
  • Mr Tom Calma was appointed Race Discrimination Commissioner on 2 July 2008
    after acting in the position since 12 July 2004.
  • Mr Graeme Innes was appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner on 2
    July 2008 after acting in the position since

    15 December 2005.
  • In July 2008, following the completion of her national Listening Tour, the
    Sex Discrimination Commissioner launched the Plan of action towards gender
    setting out the five areas of reform she will pursue during her
  • The reporting period saw Parliament pass the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal
    Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – Superannuation) Act 2008 (Cth) and the
    omnibus Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws –
    General Reform) Act 2008 (Cth). The passing of these laws was an important
    milestone for the Commission after its Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report,
    tabled in Parliament in June 2007, identified

    58 Commonwealth laws that
    discriminated against same-sex couples and their children on the basis of
    financial and workplace benefits.
  • After many years of advocacy, the Commission welcomed the Australian
    Government’s commitment to introduce a national Paid Parental Leave
    scheme, which is scheduled to start in 2011.
  • During the reporting period, the Commission welcomed the Australian
    Government’s formal support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of
    Indigenous Peoples
    , which commits Australia to respecting rights for
    Indigenous peoples. The Declaration has been a major focus of the UN Permanent
    Forum on Indigenous Issues over the last two years, sessions with which the
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has been
    heavily involved.
  • The Commission also welcomed Australia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which
    Australia, the Commission and Australia’s disability community have made
    major contributions during its development. The process of developing a National
    Disability Strategy to implement the Convention has since begun.
  • 2008-09 saw the draft Standards on Access to Premises tabled with bipartisan
    Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommendations for the Standards to
  • The Commission welcomed the signing of the Optional Protocol to the
    Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
    by the Australian Government, a significant step toward
    establishing greater oversight and inspection of detention and immigration
    detention facilities.
  • During 2008-09, the Commission participated in the Australian
    Government’s National Human Rights Consultation by advocating strongly for
    better human rights protections in Australia through a Human Rights Act. The
    Commission actively encouraged others to participate in the Consultation by
    conducting workshops around the country.
  • The Commission’s sex and gender diversity project inquiry and report,
    Sex files: the legal recognition of sex in documents and government records, was
    completed during the reporting period.
  • Partnering with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, RMIT and Monash
    University, the Commission launched its Freedom of religion and belief in the
    21st century discussion paper.
  • With the launch of its African Australians: a report on human rights and
    social inclusion discussion paper, the Commission began the first national
    assessment, from a human rights perspective, of the experiences and issues faced
    by African communities living in Australia.
  • The Commission continued the China-Australia Human Rights Technical
    Cooperation Program, its most substantial international program, which is an
    integral part of Australia’s annual inter-governmental Dialogue on Human
    Rights with China.
  • The Commission contributed to policy development and legislative review
    through the many submissions it made during the reporting period. Submissions
    were made on a range of issues, including the Native Title Amendment Bill 2009,
    the Review of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Fair Work Bill 2009, the
    Review of Australia’s Future Tax System and the Disability Discrimination
    and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008.
  • During the reporting period, the Commission intervened, with leave of the
    Court, in five new matters and was involved in two matters that continued from
    the previous financial year. Commissioners did not seek leave to appear as
    amicus curiae in any matters, though the Disability Discrimination Commissioner
    was involved in one matter continued from the previous financial year.
  • The President reported to the Attorney-General on one matter under the Human
    Rights and Equal Opportunity Act 1986 (Cth).
  • The Commission hosted eight seminars on current issues of interest in
    domestic and international human rights law.
  • The Commission received 2253 complaints in 2008-09, an

    8 percent
    increase in comparison with the previous reporting period. Ninety-three percent
    of complaints were finalised in 12 months of lodgement, 48 percent of complaints
    were conciliated and

    68 percent of all matters, where conciliation was
    attempted, were successfully resolved. These results are all well above key
    performance standards.
  • During the reporting period, the Commission issued 151 media releases. The
    President and Commissioner had 21 opinion pieces published and, from over 1100
    media inquiries, provided in excess of 520 interviews which resulted in a
    significant amount of print, radio, internet and television coverage.
  • In addition to Commission publications being available on the website, over
    75 000 publications were dispatched in hard copy. The Commission provided online
    translations, in various languages, of some core publications including the
    general Australian Human Rights Commission brochure and the Commission’s
    complaint process brochure. A number of education resources were updated during
    the reporting period, and a new resource entitled It’s your right!
    resource kit was released.
  • The Commission increased its use of Web 2.0 technologies.

    It implemented
    RSS and Podcasting for media releases and speeches from Commission events and
    launched its own YouTube channel, Twitter account, MySpace and Facebook pages.
    As part of the Sex files project, a blog was set up for anonymous consultation
    purposes. The Commission website received 3 300 132 unique visits during
    2008-09, with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice,
    Disability Rights and Education sections attracting the most traffic.
  • For the 21st year, the Commission presented its annual Human Rights Medals
    and Awards to winners on World Human Rights Day, 10 December 2008. On the same
    day, it also presented awards to three categories of winners in the 2008 Human
    Rights Photography

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Figure 1: The Australian Human Rights Commission organisation chart

(Click on image to enlarge)

An mage of a chart

25 September 2009

The Hon Robert McClelland


Parliament House


Dear Attorney

I have pleasure in presenting the Annual Report of the Australian Human
Rights Commission for the period ending 30 June 2009, pursuant to section 45 of
the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986. The report has been
prepared in accordance with the requirements of section 70 of the Public Service
Act 1999.

Yours sincerely,

The Hon. Catherine Branson, QC


Australian Human Rights Commission

Australian Human Rights Commission

Level 8, Piccadilly Tower, 133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

GPO Box 5218, Sydney, NSW 2001

Telephone: 02 9284 9600 Facsimile: 02 9284 9611


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ISSN 1031-5098

For further information about the Australian Human Rights Commission, please
visit: or email

You can also write to:

Public Affairs Unit

Australian Human Rights

GPO Box 5218

Sydney NSW 2001

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Jo Clark


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