HREOC: HUMAN RIGHTS AND GOOD
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission's Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs,
Defence and Trade
20 DECEMBER 2002
Domestic Human Rights and Good Governance Education
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)
which was established in 1986 by the Federal Parliament as successor to
the 1981 Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory authority
whose functions are to monitor, protect and promote human rights in Australia.
The Commission has played a key role in the education of civil society
in regard to these rights.
The Commission is responsible for administering the following
Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986;
Discrimination Act 1975;
Discrimination Act 1984; and
Discrimination Act 1992.
Functions performed under these Acts are vested in the
Commission as a collegiate body, in the President or individual members
of the Commission or in the federal Attorney-General.
Other legislation administered through the Commission
includes functions under the Native Title Act 1993 performed
by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has functions in relation to federal
awards and equal pay under the Workplace Relations Act 1996.
The Commission’s responsibilities fall within four
awareness and education;
and human rights complaints;
- human rights
- policy and
In order to
fulfil its obligations, the Commission:
public discussion, and undertakes and coordinates research and educational
programs to promote human rights and eliminate discrimination in relation
to all Acts.
complaints of alleged unlawful discrimination pursuant to the Racial
Discrimination Act, the Sex Discrimination Act and the Disability Discrimination
Act, and attempts to resolve these matters through conciliation where
appropriate. The President may terminate a complaint of alleged unlawful
race, sex or disability discrimination if there is no reasonable prospect
of settling the complaint by conciliation.
- If a complainant
whose complaint has been terminated wants the complaint heard and determined
by the Courts they must lodge an application to the Federal Court of
Australia or the Federal Magistrates Service within 28 days of a notice
of termination issued by the President.
into acts or practices that may be contrary to a human right or that
may be discriminatory pursuant to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Act. If the complaint is unable to be resolved through conciliation
the President may report on the case and make particular recommendations.
The Report is tabled in Parliament.
- May advise
on legislation relating to human rights and monitor its implementation;
may review existing and proposed legislation for any inconsistency with
human rights or for any discriminatory provision which impairs equality
of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation; may examine
any new international instruments relevant to human rights and advise
the Federal Government on their consistency with other international
treaties or existing Australian law; and may propose laws or suggest
actions the Government may take on matters relating to human rights
In order to
carry out these functions the Commission is empowered under all Acts (unless
otherwise specified) to:
individual complaints to the President for investigation and conciliation;
to the Government on any matters arising in the course of its functions;
guidelines to assist in the compliance by organisations and individuals
of the requirements of human rights and anti-discrimination legislation
in court proceedings involving human rights matters;
exemptions under certain conditions (Sex and Disability Discrimination
national inquiries into issues of major importance - either on its own
initiative or at the request of the Attorney-General.
TO HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION
Human rights education is an international obligation
which Australia has consistently supported. In the earliest international
articulation of universal human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the general assembly proclaimed:
every individual and every
organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall
strive by teaching and education to promote respect of these rights
and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international,
to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.
Similar obligations are found in the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Convention on the Rights
of the Child; Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Human rights education plays a central role in contributing
to the maintenance and improvement of a tolerant, just, equitable and
democratic society. The Attorney General Daryl Williams has stated: “In
Australia it has long been recognised that the most lasting and meaningful
way to reduce breaches of human rights is by changing attitudes and encouraging
tolerance - the key to this is education.”
The President of the Commission, Professor Alice Tay,
has stated that the aim of the Commission’s human rights education
program is to impart information, develop capacities, cultivate habits
and imagination, inculcate a critical approach, and teach care and understanding.
It is in this context that the Commission has embarked
on a number of educational programs specifically aimed at key sectors
of the community.
The programs have been shaped by community and individual
feedback and by an examination of the issues brought to the Commission
by way of its complaints function.
These programs provide information and strategies to
improve the enjoyment of human rights within Australia, the key message
being that the elimination of discrimination and harassment are prerequisites
for the enjoyment of human rights by all Australians.
The educational programs sit within the context of a
wide range of institutions in Australia which measure and protect some
“key” human rights. These include:
- The Australian
- The States’
elected Parliaments at the Federal and State levels.
- An independent
judiciary and a system of common law which protects many kinds of “rights”.
- A conciliation
and arbitration system which has progressively enforced the principle
of a “fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay”.
- A free
GETTING THE HUMAN RIGHTS MESSAGE
ACROSS TO ALL AUSTRALIANS
communication strategies are based on the necessity to target all Australians
wherever they live and whatever their background, age, or gender. The
Commission uses the mainstream and specialist media to disseminate human
rights messages and works with peak business and community groups in the
development and delivery of messages. The Commission also develops human
rights materials to schools and uses direct marketing to encourage teachers
to use the material.
The small Public Affairs unit of the Commission employs a full time professional
journalist, to liaise with the media, and to assist the President and
Commissioners in the delivery of human rights messages. The Unit has human
rights education officers who work with business and the community and
government to disseminate human rights initiatives and programs. A web
designer/administrator is also part of the Unit. The Commission’s
website is used as a promotional/educational tool and provides teaching
and other materials to schools, business and community.
with the media is a crucial aspect of the Commission’s public education
function. The Commission engages in public debate via the print and electronic
media to provide substantial information to the public, and directly to
journalists and editors. The Commission also uses community announcements
and niche or specialist media such as Ethnic and Indigenous radio and
press as well as country and regional media outlets to provide general
information on the Commission’s complaints system, its legal interventions
and other aspects of the Commission’s work.
and Commissioners contribute to public debate on human rights and discrimination
issues including refugees and asylum seekers, racial vilification, Indigenous
social justice, native title, sex discrimination and harassment, paid
maternity leave and other equity issues, disability discrimination and
advances in accessibility for people with a disability and on changes
to legislation that may affect people’s human rights.
during 2001-2002 the significant issues that have resulted in media attention
have been the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention,
the Paid Maternity Leave debate and the promotion of the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Social Justice and Native Title reports 2001. The
Commission also issued statements about changes to immigration laws and
to laws governing national security and about its intervention function
in the “Tampa” case, and the “IVF” case and a
number of other significant human rights issues before the Courts.
In that year,
the Commission issued 90 media releases and Commissioners have had written
a number of opinion pieces and articles which have been published in national
and regional newspapers.
of issues such as paid maternity leave has been enormous. Between April
and December 2002, when debate on the issue was most intense there were
literally 1,000s of news and feature items across a range of media on
paid maternity leave. It is clearly an issue that resonates within the
Australian community. At the time of release of the Sex Discrimination
Commissioner’s, Pru Goward’s, final paper (mid-December),
there were dozens of newspaper articles, more than 70 mentions on television
news and current affairs and more than 600 radio items on news and radio
programs across Australia.
the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski, during public hearings
for the Children in Immigration Detention Inquiry received comprehensive
coverage on radio, print and television news and current affairs. The
hearings alone attracted about 100 newspaper articles and numerous television
and radio items. Hundreds of stories about the situation for children
in immigration detention centres – and more broadly about conditions
in detention – have arisen since the Inquiry began.
was done of the costs of all media coverage received following the publication
of the Bringing them home report showed that some $18 million
would have needed to be spent to achieve the level of coverage of the
Report. In fact there were no paid advertisements; it was all done by
way of a media strategy which provided spokespersons and briefings for
a range of media on an ongoing basis.
These are examples
of the way in which the Commission generates active community debate and
engagement putting forward the human rights perspective and helping establish
the human rights agenda within the civil society.
From time to
time, the Public Affairs Unit is called upon to provide background information
also has also engaged directly with representatives of the media about
their responsibility to report fairly and accurately, especially on race
issues. Following the United States terrorist attacks on September 11
2001 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner
Dr William Jonas called for Australians not to retaliate against Muslims
in the community. In response to public criticism – through talkback
radio in particular - Dr Jonas sent a memo to editors and executive producers
to draw their attention to the racial hatred provisions of the Racial
A vital part
of the Commission’s communications strategy is the engagement and
maintenance of open relationships and dialogue with key groups across
civil society including a range of peak bodies such as ACCI, Business
Council of Australia, Unions, peak Indigenous groups and non-government
organisations. This involves getting the human rights message to peak
groups which in turn influence others. All areas of the Commission are
engaged in this work which is a key component of our advocacy strategy.
It is by this engagement that the Commission is able to reach a much broader
cross section of the Australian community.
Appendix 1 is a summary of significant meeting consultations held by Commissioners
and staff with key groups across civil society during 2001-2002.
RIGHTS EDUCATION FOR TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
The Commission’s formal education strategy is aimed
at school students and teachers and is conducted by way of workshops and
online web materials and activities. The materials are developed to provide
teachers with a range of teaching materials which are all curriculum linked.
The information about the materials is then disseminated directly to teachers
by way of email list serve messages. Direct and continuing contact with
teachers to assist and help them link the material directly to curricula,
which vary from state to state, are crucial aspects of the strategy.
Initially the Commission from 1998 to 2000 conducted
a series of Youth Challenge - Human Rights Human Values one day
workshops all over Australia. These workshops brought together thousands
of young Australians, human rights leaders and community representatives
to explore human rights principles and practices and how they impact on
social change and upon their own lives and the lives of others in the
The workshops were for secondary school students and
teachers and were supported by education materials which were curriculum
linked and distributed to all Secondary Schools in Australia.
This initiative was well received but the reach was unfortunately
limited to the relatively small number of students and teachers from each
school who were able to attend the workshops. The question then was how
do we reach 1,489 secondary schools in the Australian education system
and within budget?
In response to this question the Commission has developed
a comprehensive online education strategy which described below.
INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS WEB
This section of HREOC’s website was developed in
1998-99 and was designed to inform students about human rights and provides
links to other websites for students. The web usage statistics for this
section shows 52,708 people accessed this section during 2001-2002. A
further section for Tertiary students called “Human Rights Explained”
was published on the web in 1998 and remains one of the most accessed
sections of the HREOC website (52,974 page views in 2001-2002).
ON-LINE HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION
In 2001, the Commission developed and published the first
online human rights education program for teachers of upper primary and
secondary students by way of human rights education modules for teachers.
The program incorporated the Human Rights Human Values materials
and renamed the online module Youth Challenge.
The materials from the Commission’s main site can
be downloaded so that teachers need only have internet access once. The
program consists of:
- Human rights
education promotion, including making links with curricula.
human rights education resource collection.
The success of the Commission’s education program
was underscored when Youth Challenge was short listed for the The Australian’s ‘2002 Awards for Excellence in Educational
The program focuses on the learning needs of all students
and includes materials about international instruments and domestic laws,
which are presented in a user friendly and relevant manner for children.
This teaching approach is cross-curricular which means
teachers can tailor the education materials to a variety of subjects.
The materials produced are relevant to all aspects of learning, including
numeracy and visual literacy.
The modules are skills-oriented and provide materials
which allow the students to go through the decision making processes and
come to their own conclusions about issues of human rights and discrimination
issues. They allow students, regardless of their learning styles/abilities,
With Youth Challenge, students focus on real
life issues such as sex, race and disability discrimination, sexual harassment,
and rights in the workplace. It encourages students to explore the relevance
of human rights to their own experiences and communities.
The online program is broken into three distinct units:
Rights in the Classroom.
2) Case Study
1: Doug and Disability Discrimination.
3) Case Study
2: Young People in the Workplace.
Using video material, stories and exercises, the materials
draw on a range of skills including research, literacy, discussion, decision
making and role playing. There is even a Human Rights Treasure Hunt.
Youth Challenge offers secondary school teachers
a resource that is flexible and comprehensive. The materials can be used
across many curricular areas including History, English, Civics/Citizenship,
Legal Studies, and Studies of Society and Environment. The site provides
teaching strategies, guides and worksheets that are easy to access (56,791
people accessed the Youth Challenge during 2001-2002).
INFORMATION FOR TEACHERS WEBSITE
In May 2002 the Commission launched an Information
for Teachers portal. The section is regularly updated to provide
teachers with the most recent quality materials. The aim is to directly
assist teachers design their lessons across many subjects. For instance
the subject matter may be used to stimulate a current affairs debate,
or as subject for a drama, english or a history lesson.
This section has proved very popular with teachers and students and 23,747
users accessed the section in the period from May to June 2002.
The portal is the online framework for this education
program. It contains:
Modules: Youth Challenge and other education modules.
2) Current Issues Series: issue focused sets of activities added
Rights Resources: links to external human rights resources
Education Mailing List: an electronic mailing list with monthly
CURRENT ISSUES SERIES
The Commission receives requests from teachers and students
each day for material on current human rights issues. Responding to this
need, the Commission developed a current issues series, with a new issue
The first of these was developed in May 2002 - The Stolen
Generations. With the release of Rabbit-Proof Fence, a major
feature film, the Commission prepared teaching activities linking the
film and book (by Doris Pilkington) to Bringing them home and
the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Children from their Families. The activities direct teacher and
student interest in the film/book to the Inquiry report
A second was developed in July 2002 focusing on the paid
maternity leave campaign. The activities demonstrate to students how paid
maternity leave raises issues of sex discrimination and equal opportunity
that are directly relevant to their lives. For example, it includes a
case study on Marla - a 16 year old considering her future career and
BRINGING THEM HOME MODULE
- STORIES FROM THE STOLEN GENERATIONS
The Commission is currently developing an online education
module on Bringing them home, the Report of the National Inquiry into
the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from
The module adopts the theme of oral history and story
telling as its approach to teaching about the Inquiry. The stories of
individuals and communities, together with the histories of assimilation
and state-sanctioned removal are the key elements.
Taking into consideration different learning skills,
the module provides two sets of materials. One for junior students and
one for senior students, as well as resource materials for tertiary level
The module will explore:
stories from the Inquiry
- a history
of laws and practices in each State and Territory
- a brief
history of colonisation in Australia and overseas
- the effects
and experiences of removals
from the Inquiry
- the issue’s
connection with other Indigenous social justice issues, such as self
determination, reconciliation and criminal justice.
It will also
contain a number of online interactive elements.
In addition to developing this material, the Commission
has actively promoted the online education program, targeting teachers
across Australia. Our aim has been to attract teachers and students to
our website. The education materials on the website have all been metadata
tagged so that all the information will be instantly available for teachers
and students when they log into the web.
POSTERS AND POSTCARDS
The Commission developed a poster and postcard series
for Youth Challenge and sent them to schools all over Australia.
Both are available as downloads from the website. The Commission also
developed postcards for the Information for Teachers portal and
each set of activities in the Current Issues Series. These are distributed
across teacher organisations, curriculum development bodies, education
networks and education journals.
ELECTRONIC MAILING LIST
The Commission adopted a direct marketing approach by
using a mailing list with 3,500 self-subscribed educators. The monthly
- a link
to the most recent set of activities under the Current Issues Series
and links to human rights education resources
of particular sections of the Commission’s website that are useful
- a list of
upcoming human rights education events.
A further 500 educators have self subscribed since the
list was first set up.
ADVERTISING AND EDITORIAL
The Commission placed advertisements in the main education
serials/journals for each State and Territory. Advertisements were included
in Newsmonth (Independent Education Union, NSW/ACT), Education (NSW Teachers’ Federation), Western Teacher (State School
Teachers’ Union of WA), The Independent Voice (Journal
of the Queensland Independent Education Union) and AEU News (Australian
Education Union, Victoria). The next period of advertising is planned
after the launch of the Bringing them home module.
LINKS WITH TEACHER NETWORKS
The Commission has established links with a number of
educators’ networks. We are also contacted by these networks for
resource support, cross hyperlinking and to give presentations at conferences.
The Human Rights Education Officer has given presentations to several
large Teachers’ Conferences throughout Australia
The Commission also works to include links to our programs
on other websites. In particular, the national online education resource, EdNA Online, regularly features information on our education
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT
ISLANDER SOCIAL JUSTICE
The Social Justice Commissioner held at least 150 consultations
during 2001-02, including consultations on the following issues:
Forward. The national conference on stolen generations’
issues in August 2001 was attended by approximately 250 people.
on Social Justice and Native Title Reports. Briefings on the contents of the 2000 and 2001 reports were held with
Government, community organisations and through public launches in July
- August 2001 and May - June 2002.
- Juvenile diversion. Consultations were held in Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek,
Groote Eylandt and Katherine as part of the project on juvenile diversionary
schemes in the Northern Territory and Western Australia between July
and November 2001.
- Corporate responsibility and native title. Consultations included the conduct of a two day forum with traditional
owners, representatives of land councils and mining companies in Alice
Springs in May 2002.
- Consultations on the operation of the Native Title Act. Consultations were held with the National Native Title Tribunal, Federal
Court, Native Title Representative Bodies and the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Commission on the operation of the legislation, as well
as with native title holders and claimants.
More than 60
consultations were held by the Disability Discrimination Commissioner
and staff, including hosting a two day forum for national peak disability
representative organisations in December 2001. Other consultations included:
Regular ecommerce forum and specific consultations on banking industry
- Building access. Several
meetings each of national Building Access Policy Committee and Building
Access Technical Committee working towards upgrading of access provisions
of the Building Code of Australia and adoption of standards in this
area under the Disability Discrimination Act, as well as participation
in national information sessions on this process.
- Education. National consultative meeting on access to tertiary education materials,
in addition to participation in working group considering national standards
on education under the Disability Discrimination Act.
- Telecommunications. Participation in Australian Telecommunications Industry Forum disability
The Human Rights
Commissioner conducted a number of public consultations. These may be
broadly characterised into three groups:
- United Nations Special Session on Children. Seven
pre and post special session consultations with children and young people
were carried out around Australia in locations as geographically diverse
as Brisbane and Broome. The purpose behind the consultations was to
allow expression of the thoughts of young Australians and on return
to advise on outcomes from the Special Session.
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Public hearings
were held in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney (2 hearings) and Brisbane.
In addition at least 30 focus groups were held with ex-detainees living
in the Australian community.
Human Rights Dialogue. Meetings were held in at least 20 locations
addressing groups as diverse as the New South Wales Justices’
Association to the Association of Major Charitable Organisations.
Over 31 consultations
were conducted by the Race Discrimination Commissioner and staff in 2001-02.
- Eight consultations
conducted with civil society around the country in relation to the themes
of the World Conference Against Racism.
consultations with Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups regarding race
relations in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder community.
- Other consultations/meetings
were held on the Beyond Tolerance conference on racism; anti-Arabic
and anti-Muslim vilification and attacks (post September 11); and national
Over 100 consultations
were conducted by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and staff in 2001-02.
Sixty one of these consultations concerned the issue of paid maternity
leave and included formal consultation forums in relation to the paid
maternity leave options paper. Consultations included:
- Paid maternity leave - regional. Community
based regional consultations were held in Katherine (Northern Territory)
and Wagga Wagga (New South Wales) with a broad representation of individuals,
health professionals, union delegates and employers within the local
maternity leave - employer and union groups. Consultations
were held in each of the capital cities with a wide range of employer
representative and union groups. Meetings were also held with the Australian
Council of Trade Unions President and eight public consultations and
18 meetings were held with individual employer groups.
maternity leave - womens’ and community groups. Consultations
were held in each capital city with the assistance of the Women’s
Electoral Lobby, Business and Professional Women and the YWCA in various
states and territories.
harassment. Two meetings were held with the Australian Defence
Force in relation to the Force’s sexual harassment policy and
management of sexual harassment issues.
guidelines. Consultations were held with the Australian Sports
Commission on their national pregnancy guidelines, released in May 2002.
This is in
addition to regular community consultations conducted by the staff of
the Complaints Handling Section of the Commission. During 2001-2002, 155
presentations about the complaints handling processes were made to peak
groups and community organisations throughout Australia.
International Human Rights and Good Governance Education
The strengthening of human rights and good governance,
through education and other strategies, plays an important role in sustainable
development and poverty alleviation. The economic and social well-being
of individuals is most effectively realised within a framework of transparent
and accountable public institutions. It is within such a framework that
individuals are most likely to access opportunities to contribute to,
and share in, the benefits of economic activity. Establishing such a framework
requires not only legal and procedural reforms to entrench human rights
within institutions but also education to encourage awareness of and respect
for those rights. Without such awareness, the disadvantaged are less likely
to access legal mechanisms to assert their rights and state officials
are less likely to act in compliance with their rights. Education is a
vital complement to legal and punitive regimes for the protection of human
INVOLVEMENT IN TECHNICAL COOPERATION
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s
mandate and functions, as prescribed by legislation, are primarily domestic.
As such, most of the Commission’s work is directed to human rights
issues within Australia. However, the Commission undertakes some limited
international activities that fall within the broad concept of ‘human
rights education’. Most of this activity takes the form of technical
cooperation aimed at transfer of knowledge and expertise, generally implemented
within the framework of Australia’s overseas aid program.
In some cases regional countries wish to access this
expertise in pursuit of their own human rights objectives, while in other
cases the Australian Government wishes to use the expertise in pursuit
of its development cooperation objectives. As a general rule, the Commission
only participates in this work when certain pre-requisites are satisfied,
including that all of the Commission’s costs are met, that the program
is clearly capable of achieving its goals and that it does not detract
in any way from the Commission’s domestic work.
OF INTERNATIONAL TRAINING
In undertaking these activities, the Commission does
not specifically target the education systems of the recipient countries
but engages a wide variety of institutions and professionals relevant
to the protection and promotion of human rights. The activities seek to
strengthen the capacity of those institutions to protect human rights.
While some of the activities involve training and could be regarded as
‘education’, the emphasis is not so much on the development
of curricula as on its longer term integration into the training and operational
structures of the organisations concerned and the professionalisation
of agencies involved in enforcing or implementing laws and the rule of
OF INTERNATIONAL TRAINING
Many of the Commission’s international training
activities involve a two (or more) stage process of implementation, from
initial scoping to design through to full implementation. This reflects
the strong emphasis the Commission gives to detailed planning to ensure
that the Australian input accords with the needs and priorities of overseas
partner agencies. It also reflects the fact that success in this area
requires a gradualist approach, with substantive training often preceded
by a lengthy process of establishing relationships and building of confidence.
The Commission regards the principle of “equality and mutual respect”
between the two sides as the paramount principle in all of the technical
cooperation it undertakes. Concerted efforts are made to ensure that the
overseas project partners feel a sense of ownership of this activity,
which is essential to its success and long term sustainability
Most of the international training activities undertaken
by HREOC focus on practical issues that affect the lives of individuals.
For example domestic violence, police conduct, prison management, investigation
techniques and so on. Notwithstanding this practical focus, efforts are
made to ensure that the activities are firmly grounded in human rights
principles as established under international law. This human rights perspective
is the essential overlay in all training undertaken by HREOC and which
distinguishes it from training provided by agencies which focus more on
the economic or other dimensions of the subject matter. To ensure that
this focus is maintained, HREOC policy and professional staff play a central
role in the delivery of the training. In addition to addressing the technical
issues, HREOC officers provide the broad human rights context, through
presentations on the international human rights framework established
under the United Nations and relevant international treaties and jurisprudence.
These principles are presented not in isolation but as they pertain to
the needs and circumstances of the target audience. HREOC also ensures
that any other technical experts who participate in the training have
an appreciation of relevant human rights principles and that this is reflected
in the material they present.
OF HREOC INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The Commission’s most substantial international
program involvement is with the China-Australia Human Rights Technical
Cooperation Program (HRTC), which is an integral part of the annual Dialogue
on Human Rights with China. This program encompasses three principal themes
– protection of the rights of women and children, protection of
ethnic minority rights and reform of the legal system.
HRTC undertakes each year a series of activities intended
to assist China to promote and protect human rights. Each activity is
undertaken in partnership with a relevant Chinese agency. Training programs
and workshops implemented under HRTC have engaged many Chinese officials
working in areas vital to human rights protection such as prosecutors,
police, judges and prison officers.
The program has an immediate impact on the formulation of administrative
procedures. In the longer term the program aims to have an impact through
increasing the level of knowledge of human rights concepts, with a resultant
impact on the formulation of Chinese policies and practices. The program
therefore seeks to work with the Chinese authorities to demonstrate the
value of institutionalising the regard for human rights and to then work
with those authorities to formulate and implement practical strategies
to realise that value.
Specific activities implemented under the HRTC Program
Rights Short Courses
In 1999 nine Chinese nationals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
State Family Planning Commission, State Ethnic Affairs Commission, Supreme
People’s Procuratorate, Ministry of Public Security and the China
Law Society spent three months in Australia undertaking a purpose-designed
course. The course was conducted directly by HREOC but included visits
to and lectures on the role of Australian organisations involved in
the promotion, protection and administration of human rights.
Scholarships for postgraduate studies in human rights related disciplines
at Australian universities have been granted to key officials from the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China. So far two scholarships have been
awarded each year, with most of the students undertaking master of laws
programs with an emphasis on human rights subjects.
- Judicial training
Judicial cooperation under the HRTC Program has moved from a standard
lecture format introducing broad themes to a more practical training
format focusing on specific topics relevant to the protection of human
rights in the context of judicial practices. The most recent training
activity took place in October 2001and was conducted by four senior
Australian judges at the National Judges’ College in Beijing.
The focus of the training was on judicial ethics and covered issues
such as judicial independence, conflict of interests, judicial impartiality
and bias. This activity coincided with the introduction of China’s
first Code of Judicial Ethics and the training provided some initial
guidance on the application of its provisions.
rights reporting training
HRTC has included a number of seminars on reporting under international
human rights treaties. The most recent was a July 2002 seminar on reporting
under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, held in Beijing. This activity arose from the fact that
China ratified this treaty it in February 2001 and is due to submit
its first report in July 2003. The seminar was conducted in partnership
with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs which has overall responsibility
for reporting under the treaty. The Chinese participants comprised approximately
30 officials from government agencies relevant to the reporting process.
- Criminal Procedure Training
This work has been undertaken in cooperation with the Supreme People’s
Procuratorate (SPP), the highest prosecutorial agency in China, with
wide powers in relation to arrest, investigation and other areas of
criminal procedure. The most recent in a series of SPP workshops was
held in Chengdu, Sichuan Province in June 2002. The Chinese participants
comprised approximately 100 procurators representing the prosecution
services of eight provinces, three autonomous regions and two municipalities.
The Australian presenters were from the Office of the NSW Director of
Public Prosecutions. The workshop addressed a variety of issues central
to protection of human rights in the preparation and presentation of
the prosecution case. Topics included the role and responsibilities
of the prosecutor; the discretion to prosecute; summary and committal
proceedings, disclosure of evidence and case management
- Police Ethics and Accountability
Cooperation in this area has been with the Ministry of Public Security,
the agency responsible for police services. Within the Ministry, the
focus has been on the Department of Discipline and Supervision, which
is responsible for the maintenance of ethical standards on the part
of police. In 2001 a training program on police ethics and accountability
was held in Liaoning Province. The Australian input was provided by
trainers from the Australian Federal Police.
- Prison officer training
Training of prison officers under HRTC has been undertaken in partnership
with China’s Central Educational Institute of Prison Police Officers,
the Ministry of Justice’s training institute for correctional
officers. The most recent training was held at the Central Educational
Institute in May 2002. Training was delivered to 219 Chinese officials
by trainers from the NSW Corrective Services Academy. Topics covered
in the Australian presentations included the systems for training and
professional development of correctional officers, disciplinary procedures
for inmates, education and work programs in prisons and other programs
to assist prisoner rehabilitation.
- Domestic Violence
Several workshops on domestic violence prevention have been conducted
in China in partnership with the All-China Women’s Federation
and its provincial branches. The HRTC is currently implementing a multi-stage
project on domestic violence over the course of about three years. Those
stages include workshops and training courses for local officials and
Between 1998 and 2002 the Commission managed a program
of cooperation with the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights
(Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, commonly known as Komnas HAM). The
four year program concluded in May 2002. Its goal was to strengthen the
capacity of Komnas HAM to fulfil its broad mandate. This was accomplished
both through specific capacity building activities and by directly assisting
Komnas HAM to disseminate an understanding of human rights principles
amongst Indonesian officials and the general population. Examples of activities
implemented under this program include:
and public awareness
This program supported the placement of long term advisers in Komnas
HAM to assist that organisation implement its Education and Public Awareness
Strategy. In that role, the advisers undertook a variety of activities
including participation in conferences and seminars, radio programs
and other media work, establishment of a Human Rights Educators Network
and implementation of a Campaign on Young Men and Violence. The anti-violence
campaign involved, among other things, development of publications and
promotional material and a campaign website.
- Investigation training
In May 2002 Komnas HAM officials were given training in practical techniques
and methodologies relevant to investigation of gross human rights violations.
The training was conducted in Jakarta and the Australian input was provided
by experts from the Charles Sturt University School of Policing. The
training was considered necessary because under recent Indonesian legislation
Komnas HAM now has sole responsibility for investigation of gross human
rights violations to be prosecuted in Human Rights Courts. The objective
of this activity was to assist Komnas HAM to effectively undertake that
- Training in national inquiries
National human rights inquiries involve investigations into areas where
systemic human rights problems are apparent and they have the advantage
of focusing national attention on major issues of concern. During 2001
the Commission held two workshops for Komnas HAM members, staff and
NGO stake-holders on the conduct of national inquiries. The workshops
provided participants with practically oriented guidance on the design
and management of inquiries.
- National seminars on human rights
National seminars have played an important role in consolidating efforts
to promote human rights in Indonesia and to disseminate awareness of
human rights throughout the administration. The Capacity Building Project
has supported the Fourth and Sixth National Conferences on Human Rights,
held in 1998 and 2000 respectively. The 1998 seminar involved approximately
150 participants from a wide range of government agencies and the 2000
seminar was of similar scope.
III. SOUTH AFRICA
The Commission has implemented a program of cooperation
with the South African Commission on Gender Equality (CGE). That program
has included workshops aimed at strengthening that organisation’s
capacity to handling complaints and to intervene effectively in relevant
litigation in South Africa concerning gender issues. Several workshops
involved the collaborative development of procedure manuals dealing with
these areas. These manuals will be utilised in ongoing training provided
by that Commission to its staff. Recently, two senior officials of CGE
undertook a work attachment at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission, involving both practical activities and specialised training.
The work attachment sought to strengthen their skills in managing sex
discrimination complaints and policy development.
The Commission has worked on a smaller scale with other
governments and national human rights institutions, generally in the technical
areas of human rights protection. Examples include work with the Government
of Uganda to develop its capacity to conduct national human rights inquiries
and with the Fijian Human Rights Commission to develop effective procedures
for the handling of complaints.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is
a member of the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.
In that capacity, the Commission participates in a variety of other international
training and capacity building initiatives, implemented under the auspices
of that body. These matters are not covered in this submission. It is
understood that the Asia-Pacific Forum is providing its own submission
to this inquiry.
Last updated 18 June 2003