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President and Commissioners - Annual Report 2011-2012: Australian Human Rights Commission

President and Commissioners

The Hon. Catherine Branson,
President and Human Rights Commissioner

The Hon. Catherine Branson was appointed President of the Australian Human
Rights Commission on 7 August 2008 and commenced her five year term on 14
October 2008. On 12 July 2009 she additionally became the Human Rights

At the time of her appointment as President of the Commission, she was a
judge of the Federal Court of Australia, a position she had held since 1994. The
Federal Court is a superior court with wide original and appellate jurisdiction
including jurisdiction to hear and determine complaints alleging unlawful
discrimination under Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws and in other areas of
human rights law including refugee law.

At the time of her appointment to the Federal Court, Ms Branson was a member
of the Board of Examiners of the Supreme Court of South Australia, a council
member of the University of South Australia and a Trustee of the Adelaide
Festival Centre Trust. She had earlier been Deputy Chair of the Adelaide Medical
Centre for Women and Children and a member of the National Women’s
Advisory Council.

Ms Branson is a past President of the Australian Institute for Judicial
Administration, a former member of the Board of Management of IDLO (a
governmental organisation based in Rome enjoying observer status at the United
Nations), a member of the International Association of Judges, a member of the
International Association of Refugee Law Judges and convenor of the latter
association’s Human Rights Nexus Working Party.

Prior to her appointment as a judge, she practiced as a barrister at the
Adelaide Bar in South Australia, principally in the areas of administrative law,
including discrimination law, and commercial law. She was appointed
Queen’s Counsel in 1992. Between 1984-89, she was Crown Solicitor of South
Australia and the CEO of the South Australian Attorney-General’s
Department. Ms Branson holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws from the
University of Adelaide.

Mr Mick Gooda
Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Mick Gooda is a descendent of the Gangulu people of central Queensland. He is
a senior executive with
25 years experience and a record of attaining
high-level goals and leading multi-million dollar service programs and
organisational reform.

Immediately prior to taking up the position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick was the Chief Executive Officer of
the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health (CRCAH) for close to five
and a half years. Here, he drove a research agenda that placed Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people ‘front and centre’ in the research
agenda, working alongside world leading researchers. His work at the CRCAH
empowered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to lead the research
agenda in areas including: chronic disease management; skin infections; and
promoting cultural change in hospitals to make them more appropriate to the
needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Mick has extensive knowledge of the diversity of circumstance and cultural
nuances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout Australia.
He has been actively involved in advocacy in Indigenous affairs throughout
Australia and has delivered strategic and sustainable results in remote, rural
and urban environments. Mick has played a leadership role in a range of areas
including: Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Commission and Senior Consultant to the Aboriginal Legal Service (WA).

He is highly experienced in policy and program development in the public and
community sectors. Mick is also currently a Board Member of the Centre for Rural
and Remote Mental Health Queensland, and is the Australian representative on the
International Indigenous Council which focuses on healing and addictions. He
also has an interest in the Lateral Violence Program in Canada and has been
working closely with the First Nation people of Canada on the relevance of this
program to Australia.

Graeme Innes
Disability Discrimination Commissioner

Graeme Innes has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination
Commissioner since December 2005. During that time he has also served as
Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner for three and a half years and as
Race Discrimination Commissioner for two years.

Graeme is a Lawyer, Mediator and Company Director. He has been a Human Rights
Practitioner for 30 years in NSW, WA and nationally.

During his term as Commissioner, Graeme has significantly contributed to the
success of a number of initiatives. These have included the Same Sex: Same
Entitlements inquiry, which resulted in removal of discrimination across federal
law; the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons
with Disabilities
, and its ratification by Australia; the development of the
National Disability Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises –
buildings) Standards 2010
; as well as establishment of the Lifetime Housing
Foundation. Graeme has also been an active high profile advocate for the
implementation of cinema captioning and audio descriptions and, as Human Rights
Commissioner, undertook three annual inspections of Australia’s
Immigration Detention facilities.

Graeme has been a Member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal; the
NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal; and the Social Security Appeals
Tribunal. He has also been a Hearing Commissioner with the Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission.

Graeme was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia, and the
first Chair of Australia’s national blindness agency, Vision

In 1995 Graeme was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). In 2003, he
was a finalist for Australian of the Year.

Graeme is married with an adult son and a daughter in primary school. He
enjoys cricket (as a spectator) and sailing (as a participant), and relaxes by
drinking fine Australian white wine.

Elizabeth Broderick
Sex Discrimination

Elizabeth Broderick was appointed for a five year term
as Sex Discrimination Commissioner in September 2007. She was also the
Commissioner responsible for Age Discrimination from September 2007 until July

During her term, she has been committed to improving gender equality through
her advocacy in preventing violence against women and sexual harassment,
improving lifetime economic security for women, balancing paid work and unpaid
caring responsibilities, promoting women’s representation in leadership
and strengthening gender equality laws, monitoring and agencies.

Elizabeth has been a key advocate for Australia’s national paid
parental leave scheme, and domestic violence reform. She has championed the
changes to the ASX Corporate Governance Principles to increase the number of
women at decision making level. She has worked with the Australian Government to
strengthen gender equality laws and agencies.

Elizabeth represents Australia in the United Nations every year and has
facilitated the attendance of marginalized Australian women as key advocates to
address issues such as alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

In April 2011, the Government appointed Elizabeth, as Australia’s Sex
Discrimination Commissioner, to lead the Commission’s Review into the
Treatment of Women in the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian
Defence Force. She handed down her Report for Phase One of the Review on 3
November 2011.

Elizabeth is a member of the World Bank’s Advisory Council on Gender
and Development, a member of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Advisory
Board, the Vic Health Advisory Board and the ANU Centre for Public and
International Law.

Prior to her appointment, Elizabeth was a partner and board member at Blake
Dawson. She developed the firm’s business case for flexibility in the
workplace. Her efforts contributed to creating a workplace where more than 20
percent of the law firm’s workforce now uses flexible work arrangements.

Elizabeth is married and has two young children.

Susan Ryan
Discrimination Commissioner

Susan Ryan was appointed as Australia’s first Age Discrimination
Commissioner on 30 July 2011 for a five year term.

Up until her appointment as Commissioner, she had been Women’s
Ambassador for ActionAid Australia and chaired the Australian Human Rights Group
since 2008. She had also chaired the Australian Human Rights Act Campaign Inc.
since 2005.

Immediately prior to commencing as Commissioner, Susan was also the
Independent Chair of the IAG and NRMA Superannuation Plan and had been President
of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees
from 2000 to 2007,
member of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors from 2001 to 2007,
member of the ASX Corporate Governance Council from 2003 to 2007 and CEO of the
Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia from 1993 to 1997.

Susan has also held a number of positions at the University of New South
Wales. She was Pro-chancellor and Council member from 1998, Chair of the UNSW
Risk Committee from 2002 and Chair of the Advisory Council FASS UNSW since

From 1975 to 1988, Susan was Senator for the ACT, becoming the first woman to
hold a Cabinet post in a federal Labor Government. She served in senior
portfolios in the Hawke Government as Minister for Education and Youth Affairs,
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Status of Women and Special
Minister of State. As Education Minister, Susan saw school retention rates
double and universities and TAFEs grow significantly without the charging of
tuition fees. She also pioneered extensive anti-discrimination and equal
opportunity legislation, including the landmark Sex Discrimination Act
and the Affirmative Action Act 1986.

In 1990, Susan was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia for her
contribution to Parliament.

She published her autobiography, Catching the Waves, in 1999 and has
been a frequent media commentator on her areas of expertise.

Helen Szoke
Race Discrimination Commissioner

Helen Szoke was appointed as Australia’s full time Race Discrimination
Commissioner on 5th September 2011 for a five year term.

Up until her appointment, Helen Szoke was the Commissioner with the Victorian
Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and worked with the Commission
from 2004 until August 2011. During this period she managed the expansion of the
Commission’s functions under the Charter of Human Rights Act and the
modernisation of the Equal Opportunity Act in that state.

She is currently Co-Chair of Play by the Rules, a Board Member of
Multicultural Arts Victoria and a member of the Advisory Committee for the
Centre for International Mental Health, School of Population Health University
of Melbourne.

Helen has previously held positions relating to management, community
development, organizational development and regulation in the education and
health sectors.

She has held various other Statutory and Directors positions including the
Adult Migrant Education Services, National Health and Medical Research Licensing
Committee, Consumers Health Forum, the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Key
Centre for Women’s Health, Women’s Health Victoria and various
community agencies. She also served one term as a local city councillor.

Helen is a Patron of New Beginnings which is an NGO set up to deal with
peaceful conflict resolution with a focus on people of African Descent.

She is also Patron of the Australian Arabic Women’s Foundation Inc,
which aims to empower, encourage and support women from Arabic backgrounds to
become independent.

In 2011, Helen was awarded the Law Institute of Victoria Paul Baker Award for
contribution to Human Rights.