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Highlights of the year - Annual Report 2009-2010: Australian Human Rights Commission

Highlights of the year

Key achievements

International students:

In July 2010, the Racism and the Tertiary Student Experience in Australia policy paper was released, the result of our partnership with the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and Universities Australia. With international student safety a major political, social and economic issue, we led a collaboration of student representatives, key institutions and international experts to address the policy gap, identify the human rights issues and advocate for solutions. This partnership helped create a national voice for international students.

Protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity consultation:

In October 2010, we hosted a series of public consultations to listen to the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people. Close to 100 roundtable participants and 50 online responses shared personal stories of discrimination, violence, harassment and bullying on the basis of their sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity. The majority of participants highlighted the need for greater protection against discrimination, including in federal anti-discrimination law. We released the report of our consultations in May 2011.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

In December 2010, we launched a package of resources to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples understand and protect their rights. The resources bring the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to life by showcasing real-life examples of rights in action. They also describe how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities can use the Declaration to promote positive change.

Universal Periodic Review:

In January 2011, Australia took part in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a new process of the United Nations Human Rights Council that examines the human rights record of all Member States. We played an active role in the lead-up to the UPR; we developed a range of information resources, held consultation workshops over a six month period, met with government and civil society and lodged our own independent submission to the Council. Many of our recommendations were reflected in the Report of the UPR Working Group.

Disability Access to Premises standards

In March 2011, we released a guideline to assist building professionals better understand the Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards and how they apply to new and upgraded public buildings. The Premises Standards commenced on 1 May 2011, after more than a decade of cooperative work and negotiation between the Commission, regulators, government, industry bodies and the disability community. The Standards address the way we design, construct and renovate buildings and will deliver greater safety and accessibility for all Australians.

Community Policing Partnership Projects:

In March 2011, we released a review of 38 Commission/ Australian Multicultural Foundation projects which sought to build trust and foster stronger relationships between Muslim communities and Police in different parts of Australia.The review highlighted a number of ‘best practice’ approaches that could be adapted to other communities to improve understanding and help break down negative stereotypes. It also demonstrated the positive contribution that small-scale, local projects can have in building a more socially cohesive Australia.

Disability rights in the Pacific:

In April 2011, we concluded a major two-year capacity building project in partnership with the Pacific Disability Forum. Funded by AusAID, the project sought to build skills and knowledge to progress disability issues among representatives from government and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) in ten Pacific countries. Two DVD resources were also produced as part of the project and distributed to stakeholders across the region.

‘Don’t Stand By, Stand Up’ campaign:

In partnership with online youth mental health service,, we launched a national campaign in May 2011 calling on young people to create an anti-bullying pledge. The goal was to highlight the important role that bystanders can play to prevent bullying. The ‘Don’t Stand By, Stand Up’ campaign encouraged young people to stand up to bullies, stand up for their friends and stand up for other young people who are being bullied.

Amendments to the Sex and Age Discrimination Acts:

In May 2011, the Parliament passed important amendments to federal sex and age discrimination legislation, which will deliver better outcomes for women, men and older Australians. The Commission advocated strongly for the changes, which include protection from discrimination in employment on the ground of family responsibilities for both men and women. There is greater protection against sexual harassment and breastfeeding is covered as a separate ground of discrimination. The amendments also establish Australia’s first full-time Age Discrimination Commissioner.

Complaints achievements:

During 2010-11, we provided information about the law and the complaint process to 18 670 enquirers and received 2152 complaints about alleged discrimination and violations of human rights. We worked with those involved to successfully resolve over 1000 complaints. We exceeded all our key performance standards in relation to timeliness, conciliation and service satisfaction and 61% of those who were surveyed about our complaint service described the service as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’.