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Highlights of the year - Annual Report 2011-2012: Australian Human Rights Commission

Highlights of the year

Key achievements

Complaints service

During 2011-12, we provided information about the law and the
complaint process to 17,047 enquirers. We received 2610 complaints alleging
discrimination and violations of human rights and we finalised 2605 complaints.
We conciliated 48% of finalised complaints, which means that we assisted over
2500 people and organisations involved in complaints to successfully resolve
their dispute.

We exceeded all our key performance standards. 95% of those
who were surveyed about the service we provided said they were satisfied with
the service and 62% rated the service as ‘very good’ or
‘excellent’.

Australian Public Service Human Rights Network

In September 2011, we initiated a series of human rights forums for
the Australian Public Service. The forums provide an informal way for APS staff
to build their knowledge and understanding about human rights issues. The forums
complement more formal training that is being implemented as part of the
government’s commitment to strengthening human rights in law and
practice.

Review into the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force

In November 2011, we released our report for Phase One of the Review
into
the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force. Phase one
investigated treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force Academy. Phase
Two is examining the effectiveness of cultural change strategies in the ADF and
the measures required for increased representations of women in the senior ranks
of leadership. We expect to release the Phase Two report in August.

Social Justice and Native Title Reports

In November 2011, the Social Justice and Native Title Reports 2011
were released, focusing on the issue of lateral violence in Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities. The Social Justice Report also acknowledged
the political milestones for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
represented by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the
beginning of a conversation around constitutional recognition.

Inquiry into Australia’s treatment of individuals suspected of people
smuggling offences who said that they were children

In November 2011, we began an Inquiry into the treatment of
individuals suspected of people smuggling offences, who say that they are
children. The Inquiry, which concerns the human rights of children, considered
all 180 cases where age has been in dispute since September 2008. The Inquiry
process prompted an independent review of 28 cases where individuals who had
said that they were children were convicted of people smuggling offences. In May
and June 2012, the Attorney-General released 15 individuals early on the basis
that they may have been children on their arrival in Australia.

Human rights awards

In December 2011, we held our 24th annual Human Rights Awards ceremony
at the Wentworth Sofitel Hotel in Sydney. The prestigious Human Rights Medal was
awarded to The Hon Ron Merkel QC and the Young People’s Human Rights Medal
was awarded to Tshibanda Gracia Ngoy. Awards were also presented in eight other
categories.

Something in common

In December 2011, we launched two websites aimed at increasing
community engagement and understanding and respect for rights. Something In
Common and Tell Me Something I Don’t Know are designed to make human
rights meaningful and accessible, and to provide an online space for people
share their stories about every day and extraordinary human rights action.

Improving access for people with disability

In April 2012, we reached an agreement in the AAT with the Australian
Subscription Television and Radio Association in regard to the temporary
exemption application for captioning levels. This means that people with
disabilities will have improved access to television services through the
increased use of captioning. On 25 June 2012, we welcomed the passage of the
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Improved Access to Television Services) Bill
2012, which will introduce new, and boost, existing requirements for captioning
on commercial, national and subscription television broadcasters, including
measures to improve the readability, comprehensibility and accuracy of
captioning.

BackMeUp

In June 2012, we launched our anti-cyberbullying social marketing
campaign, called BackMeUp. The campaign aims to help prevent cyberbullying among
young people and emphasizes taking positive action to support friends or peers
who are bullied. BackMeUp is a competition in which young people submit a
digital story they have created showing the importance of bystanders in a
cyberbullying situation.

Working Past Our 60s: Reforming Laws and Policies for the Older Worker.

In June 2012, the Commission released Working Past Our 60s: Reforming
Laws and Policies for the Older Worker, a paper that details the restrictions
that workers compensation, income insurance and licensing place on people
working beyond their 60s. By highlighting how these arrangements that affect
older workers, we hope to create impetus for reform, in state and Commonwealth
government workers compensation schemes and in the private insurance
industry.