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Annual Report 2001-2002: Chapter 1

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Annual Report 2000-2001

Chapter 1: The Commission

Vision: An Australian society in which the human rights of all are respected, protected and promoted.


To provide leadership on human rights through:

  • building partnerships with others;
  • having a constructive relationship with government;
  • being responsive to the community; and
  • promoting community ownership of human rights.

To ensure that Australians:

  • have access to independent human rights complaint handling and public inquiries processes; and
  • benefit from human rights education, promotion and monitoring and compliance activities.

As an effective organisation, we are committed to:

  • unity of purpose;
  • valuing our diversity and creativity; and
  • the pursuit of best practice.


The Commission is an national independent statutory body established under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986. It has a President and five Commissioners. The five positions are currently held by three persons. Please refer to the organisational chart on page 16 for further information.

President - Professor Alice Tay

Professor Alice Tay’s five year term as President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission commenced on 1 April 1998. She is the author and editor, and co-author and co-editor (with the late Eugene Kamenka and Guenther Doeker-Mach), of 24 books and over 120 articles. Her work has been focused on socialist legal systems and legal culture (including the former Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and Vietnam); comparative law;  legal theory and philosophy; jurisprudence; and human rights. She is fluent in Russian and Chinese and specialises in jurisprudence, legal and social philosophy, comparative, East European and Asian/Pacific legal systems, macro-sociology of law and human rights, and comparative constitutionalism. She was a part-time Commissioner with the Australian Law Reform Commission, a member of the Australian Science and Technology Council, President of the International Association for Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy and President of the National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition. She has lectured in many countries and was Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Visiting Fellow, in the United States, Canada, the People’s Republic of China, Italy, Japan and Germany.

Human Rights Commissioner and acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner -
Dr Sev Ozdowski OAM

Dr Sev Ozdowski took up his appointment as Human Rights Commissioner in December 2000 for a five year term. Dr Ozdowski was also appointed as acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner for a 12 month period. Previously, Dr Ozdowski was Chief Executive of South Australia’s Office of Multicultural and International Affairs. Dr Ozdowski has a long-term commitment to human rights and his relationship with the Human Rights Commission dates back to the original Commission of the early 1980s. He is the author of many papers on sociology of law, human rights, immigration and multiculturalism. Born in Poland in 1949, Dr Ozdowski migrated to Australia in 1975. He has held senior positions in the Federal portfolios of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Attorney-General’s and Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has also worked as Secretary of the Human Rights Commission inquiry into the Migration Act 1958 and for the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

Dr Ozdowski has a Master of Laws and Master of Arts in Sociology from Poznan University, Poland, and a PhD in Sociology of Law from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW. He was awarded a Harkness Fellowship in 1984 for post-doctoral work on race relations, international human rights and immigration law and public administration - studies that took him from Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) to Georgetown University (Washington DC) and the University of California (Berkeley, California). The five year term of the previous Human Rights Commissioner, Chris Sidoti ceased on 13 August 2000.

Professor Tay acted as the Disability Discrimination Commissioner from August to December 2000.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and acting Race Discrimination Commissioner -
Dr William Jonas AM

Dr William Jonas is a Worimi man from the Karuah River region of NSW.

Until his appointment as Commissioner, on 6 April 1999 for five years, Dr Jonas was Director of the National Museum of Australia. From 1991-96 he was Principal of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra. Before becoming Director of Aboriginal Education at Newcastle University in 1990, he was a lecturer in geography at the University of Newcastle and before that at the University of Papua New Guinea.

In the mid-1980s, Dr Jonas was a Royal Commissioner with the late Justice Jim McClelland on the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia. He has held positions on the Immigration Review Tribunal, the Australian Heritage Commission and the Joint Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Heritage and Culture in NSW.

Dr Jonas holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of NSW, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Newcastle and a PhD from the University of Papua New Guinea.

Dr Jonas has been acting Race Discrimination Commissioner since September 1999.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner - Ms Susan Halliday

The three year term of Susan Halliday ended on 27 April, 2001. Prior to her appointment as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Halliday was Assistant Director with the Business Council of Australia where she was responsible for policy development, advocacy, coordination of research and member company employee relations, employment, human resource management and education and training activity.

Previously, Ms Halliday was the Assistant Director with the private sector Council for Equal Opportunity in Employment and also worked for BHP in a range of positions. Over the past decade Ms Halliday has lectured at a number of universities and was originally a secondary school teacher of History and English.

Ms Halliday is currently Chair of the National Centre for Women (Swinburne University) and a board member of Australians Against Child Abuse and the Australian Student Traineeship Foundation.

Ms Halliday was also acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner from 1999 until December 2000.

Professor Tay acted as Sex Discrimination Commissioner until the appointment of the new Commissioner Ms Pru Goward in July 2001.

Deputy Disability Discrimination Commissioner – Mr Graeme Innes AM

Mr Graeme Innes is a lawyer and mediator, and has been an equal opportunity practitioner for twenty years. He commenced as Deputy Disability Discrimination Commissioner in September 1999. In this role he assists with the handling of public enquiries, exemption applications and the development of standards under the Disability Discrimination Act. Mr Innes has worked in this field in NSW and WA and is currently a part-time member of four Tribunals. Mr Innes has been active in the disability field for twenty-five years. He has served on the Committees and Boards of numerous consumer and service-provision organisations. He was Chair of the Disability Advisory Council of Australia for four and a half years. He is currently President of Royal Blind Society of NSW and one of Australia’s delegates to the World Blind Union. Mr Innes received an A.M. in the 1995 Australian honours for his contribution to the drafting and enactment of the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act.


The Commission is responsible for administering the following Acts:

  • Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986;
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975;
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984; and
  • Disability 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.

Legislative changes to the Commission

The Human Rights Legislation Amendment Act No. 1 1999 (Cth) received Royal Assent on 13 October 1999. Its substantive provisions commenced on 13 April 2000. The effect of the major amendments contained in the Act is to:

  • transfer the power to hear complaints of unlawful discrimination from the Commission to the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Service;
  • transfer complaint handling powers from the Race, Sex, Disability Discrimination and Human Rights Commissioners to the President;
  • remove the internal Presidential review function from the Racial Discrimination Act, Sex Discrimination Act and Disability Discrimination Act, and provide that where a complaint of unlawful discrimination is terminated by the President, the complainant will be able to go directly to the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Service;
  • remove the function of the President or Commission to grant interim determinations and vest a function to grant interim injunctions in the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Service; and
  • create the role of amicus curiae for all Commissioners in proceedings under the amending legislation that are before the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates Service.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 established the Commission and outlines the Commission powers and functions. Human rights are strictly defined, and only relate to the international instruments scheduled to or declared under the Act. They are:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • Declaration on the Rights of the Child;
  • Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons;
  • Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons; and
  • Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
  • Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation

Racial Discrimination Act

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 gives effect to Australia’s obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Its main aims are to:

  • promote equality before the law for all persons, regardless of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin; and
  • make discrimination on the basis of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, unlawful.

The Act was amended in 1995 to provide protection against racial hatred.

Sex Discrimination Act

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 gives effect to Australia’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and certain aspects of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 156.

Its main aims are to:

  • promote equality between men and women;
  • eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status or pregnancy and, family responsibilities; and
  • eliminate sexual harassment at work, in educational institutions, in the provision of goods and services, accommodation and in the delivery of Commonwealth programs.

Disability Discrimination Act

The objectives of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 are to:

  • eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities as far as is possible;
  • promote community acceptance of the principle that people with disabilities have the same fundamental rights as all members of the community; and
  • ensure as far as practicable that people with disabilities have the same rights to equality before the law as other people in the community.

Functions and powers

The Commission’s responsibilities fall within four main areas:

  • public awareness and education;
  • anti-discrimination and human rights complaints;
  • human rights compliance; and
  • policy and legislative development.

In order to fulfil its obligations, the Commission:

  • fosters public discussion, and undertakes and coordinates research and educational programs to promote human rights and eliminate discrimination in relation to all Acts.
  • investigates 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.
  • inquires 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 and discrimination.

In order to carry out these functions the Commission is empowered under all Acts (unless otherwise specified) to:

1. refer individual complaints to the President for investigation and conciliation;

2. report to the Government on any matters arising in the course of its functions;

3. establish advisory committees;

4. formulate guidelines to assist in the compliance by organisations and individuals of the requirements of human rights and anti-discrimination legislation and conventions;

5. intervene in court proceedings involving human rights matters;

6. grant exemptions under certain conditions (Sex and Disability Discrimination Acts); and

7. conduct national inquiries into issues of major importance - either on its own initiative or at the request of the Attorney-General.

Specific functions of Commissioners

In addition to the broad functions outlined above, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner have specific responsibilities.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986, prepares an annual report on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights of Indigenous people, and undertakes social justice education and promotional activities.

The Commissioner also performs separate reporting functions under the Native Title Act 1993. This includes preparing an annual report on the operation of the Act and its effect on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights of Indigenous people. The Commissioner also reports, when requested by the Minister, on any other matter relating to the rights of Indigenous people under this Act.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner

The Workplace Relations Act 1996 gives the Sex Discrimination Commissioner the power to initiate and refer equal pay cases and other specific matters to the Industrial Relations Commission.

The Minister

The Attorney-General, the Honourable Daryl Williams, AM, QC, MP, is the Minister responsible in Parliament for the Commission. He has a number of powers under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

The most significant are:

  • to make, vary or revoke an arrangement with states or territories for the performance of functions relating to human rights or to discrimination in employment or occupation;
  • to declare, after consultation with the states, an international instrument to be one relating to human rights and freedoms for the purposes of the Act; and
  • to establish an advisory committee (or committees) to advise the Commission in relation to the performance of its functions. The Commission will, at his request, report to him on Australia’s compliance with International Labour Organisation Convention 111 and advise him on national policies relating to equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation.

Outcomes Structure

The Commission has one outcome:

An Australian Society in which the human rights of all are respected, protected and promoted.

There is one output for the Commission’s outcome:

Australians have access to independent human rights complaint handling and public inquiries processes; and benefit from human rights education, promotion and monitoring, and compliance activities.

Resources for Outcomes

Outcome 1 - An Australian society in which the human rights of all are respected, protected and promoted.


2000 - 2001
$ '000

2000 - 2001
$ '000
2001 - 2002
$ '000
Total Administered Expenses
Prices of Department Outputs
16, 126
Output Group 1 - Australians
have access to independent
human rights complaint handling
and public inquiry processes
and benefit from human rights
education, promotion and
monitoring and compliance
Subtotal Output Group 1
16, 126
Revenue from Governments
(Appropriation) for Departmental
Revenue from other sources
Total Price of Outputs
16, 126
Total for Outcome (Total Price of Outputs
& Administered Expenses)
16, 126
Staff (Years)
Staff (Number)

2000 - 2001

2000 - 2001
2001 - 2002

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Human Rights Education & Promotion

Human rights education and the promotion of human rights are core responsibilities of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

These legislative responsibilities are:

1. to promote an understanding and acceptance of, and compliance
with the relevant Act: HREOCA s 11(1)(g);RDA s.20(1) (b) SDA s 48(1) (d) DDA 67(1) (g)

2. to undertake research and education programs for the purpose of promoting the objects of the relevant Act: HREOCA s.11(1) (h) RDA s.20(1)(c )
SDA s.48(1) (e) DDA 67(1) (h).

Human rights education is also 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.

Human rights education plays a central role in contributing to the maintenance and improvement of a tolerant, just, equitable and democratic society.

The President of the Commission, Professor Alice Tay, has stated that her philosophy of human rights education is quite simple: “It is not about moralising, telling people what is good for them. It is not about indoctrination, trying to convince others to think as one does. It is grounded in the gathering of knowledge, facts and information, rules and processes about the world around us and how it works. The chief goal of human rights education is that we become more effective members of our community in whatever we are doing. Human rights education broadens our sensibilities and deepens our understanding of the privileges and responsibilities of being human. Its end is the full recognition and acceptance that there are no sub-humans.”

All work undertaken by the Commission has a human rights educative base.

This section details the human rights educational programs undertaken on a whole of Commission basis. Specific education programs conducted by individual Commissioners are detailed later in this report.

During 2000-01 the Commission has continued to work on a number of formal education programs aimed at key sectors of the community, particularly school students.

These are:

  • Youth Challenge program for secondary school students and teachers,
  • Human Rights Awards
  • Internet site materials for individuals, schools, employers and community groups
  • Community Information program for peak government non-government and community organisations
  • Distribution of hard copy publications about the Commission
  • Media engagement, interviews, opinion pieces and press releases.

Youth Challenge - ‘Human Rights/ Human Values’

The Youth Challenge program brings together high school students in different regions of Australia for a one-day event which explores how human rights principles and practices impact on social change and upon the students’ own lives and the lives of others in the community. The Commission has conducted a series of Youth Challenges since late 1998, commencing with a National Challenge in Sydney for over 100 students from all over Australia as part of the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

During 2000-01 the Commission worked with State Equal Opportunity Commissions in South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT to conduct eight Challenges. The costs associated with the conduct of the Challenges were shared between the state bodies and the Commission. Staff from all Commissions worked very closely in achieving high attendences at the Challenges and in producing a very successful and enjoyable day for all students and teachers.

The Challenges focus on real life issues such as disability discrimination in schools and the respective rights and responsibilities of students, teachers and parents, and the “transition to work” for students related to potential racial and sexual discrimination and harassment that they may experience.

Prior to the event students and teachers receive curriculum-linked information about the topics to be discussed at the Challenge. These papers were developed by the Commission and distributed through Studies magazine to all Australian secondary schools.

The Challenges deal with issues in a creative, interactive way and include a video hypothetical; computer-generated decision making programs and the workshopping by students of specific tasks. The students respond through role plays on how they would deal with the hypothetical discrimination/harassment. The report-backs are always highly entertaining and innovative in the ways the students deal with the issues.

Teachers, who play an important role on the day as facilitators, are provided with basic training and materials to assist them in presenting the Challenge when they go back to their school.

An evaluation of each event is conducted. During the year over 800 students and 50 teachers and community representatives attended the eight Youth Challenges. This means that over 1150 students and 100 teachers representing over 240 schools secondary schools have participated in the Youth Challenge since the first national Challenge in 1998.

Independent evaluation of Studies [1] magazine show that the human rights materials published and distributed via Studies magazine has been very well received. The disability discrimination materials had been used by more than 500,000 students.

The ‘transition to work’ scenarios, which looked at sex and race discrimination, were used by 88% of respondents with more than 630,000 students. 23% of the students judged the articles as excellent, 51% thought they were very good, and 24% thought they were good.

Evaluations of the Youth Challenge day have shown a substantially increased awareness by students of human rights and discrimination issues. With an average of 98% of participants and 90% of teachers rating the Challenge materials and day as excellent to very good.

The Commission will place the Youth Challenge materials on the Commission website as a teaching resource, and promote their availability widely. The curriculum-linked materials will be in module format and will be supported by video and other materials available at a nominal price for teachers. These materials will be available in October 2001.


2000 Human Rights Medal and Awards

The Human Rights Medal and Awards were established in 1987 to recognise those individuals and organisations who have made a significant contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and equal opportunity in Australia.

The 2000 Medal and Awards presentation ceremony was held on 10 December 2000 at Darling Park in Sydney. Special guest was Dr Barney Pityana, President of South African Human Rights Commission who delivered an inspiring Human Rights Day address to the 200 guests.

The Commission is very grateful for the services of the judging panels who give their time and expertise on an honorary basis. The judges were Andrea Durbach, Faith Bandler, Peter Nugent MP, Ulrike Schuermann, Prashanth Shanmugan, Caroline Frohmader, Michael Curtotti, Greg Thompson, Sue Zelinka, Geraldine Walsh, Debra Jopson, Janine MacDonald, Mick O’Regan, Lew Griffiths, David Busch, John Cleary, Nicholas Cowdrey QC, Stephen Connell and Ruth McColl SC.

Thanks to Ansett and Rio Tinto for sponsoring, respectively, the interstate winners and Dr Pityana to attend the ceremony.

Human Rights Medal

Former Australian Prime Minister the Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH was awarded the 2000 Human Rights Medal for his contribution to the advancement of human rights in Australia and internationally. The judges said Mr Fraser had provided national leadership in the pursuit of human rights over a long period, including consistent support for reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians and leadership in the fight against racism nationally and internationally.


Highly Commended

Dr Helen McCue was highly commended for her outstanding work with refugees and refugee issues over two decades. She has worked for the World Health Organisation in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Bahrain before returning to Australia in the mid-80s to establish Australia-based support networks for refugees worldwide - setting up APHEDA, an organisation to help re-skill refugees, and WREN (Women Refugees Action Network) to support women and children refugees.

Law Award

The Law Award, sponsored by the Law Council of Australia, went to the Indigenous Women’s Program at the NSW Women’s Legal Resources Centre. The Indigenous Women’s Program is an autonomous program forming part of the Women’s Legal Resource Centre. The program provides legal advice, outreach programs, community education and casework particularly in the areas of criminal and family law, child protection and family violence. The program has been involved in writing about Aboriginal women and the law for the NSW Law Handbook and the Indigenous Law Bulletin and contributing to education about family violence through their training video and comic for young people. Staff members are involved with other committees that are looking at Aboriginal women’s access to discrimination complaints processes and researching issues relating to Aboriginal women in prison.

Highly Commended

Paul Richards, a pioneer of Aboriginal Legal Services who was instrumental in range of issues tackled by the service and the creative and innovative ways they used to garner community support - including use of the media and encouraging continuing community debate on issues such as the impact of mandatory sentencing on people with an intellectual disability. The judges said the service tackled difficult issues and sometimes advocated a course of action that ran counter to prevailing community and political attitudes.

Highly Commended

Refugee Council of Australia for policy review, advocacy, education and support for the refugee community in Australia and People with Disabilities (NSW) Inc. for outstanding advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities.

Television Award

Paul Roberts, Des Kootji Raymond and Archie Roach for Land of the Little Kings, a documentary about the Stolen Generation aired on SBS TV in early 2000. Paul Roberts and Des Kootji Raymond are independent filmmakers who have worked in partnership for six years. They have a definite agenda to present contemporary stories that tell the truth and promote human equality.

The Land of the Little Kings is a feature-length documentary about stolen generation and state-of-the-nation issues, narrated by Archie Roach. This program was aired on SBS in early 2000 and received critical acclaim. This documentary represents a high point in the collaboration between Roberts and Raymond.

Highly Commended

ABC TV Comedy, The Games, for the episode on Reconciliation (Series 2, Episode 3).

Radio Award

Gary Bryson and John Cochrane, ABC Radio National, won for their four-part series on the history of race and racism called Empires of Division.
Judges expressed difficulty in choosing between an experiential entry such as Bewitched and Empires of Division, which was well researched and covered a huge range of issues.

They decided Empires of Division was the winner because of the scope of the issues presented and the breath of research, as well as the potential for a much greater understanding of the causes of racism. The judges congratulated the program producers on the impressive research undertaken and the quality of the presentation. They noted that they did not necessarily agree with some of the analysis of the causes of racism, but found the overall analysis to be impressive and thought provoking. They suggested that the program would be an excellent educative tool for students and for the general public.

Highly Commended

Natalie Kestecher and Steve Tilley, ABC Radio Arts Program, for Bewitched - Living with Tourette’s Syndrome and Stephen Watkins, ABC Radio National for Asylum Seekers.

Print Award

Indigenous Law Bulletin, published by The Indigenous Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of NSW won the print award for its coverage of Indigenous law issues from mandatory sentencing to traditional hunting and fishing rights. The Indigenous Law Bulletin was created in conjunction with the establishment of the Indigenous Law Centre in 1981 in order to facilitate the promotion and discussion on matters of law and policy relating to Aboriginal Legal Services and land Councils. The publication has served to promote and overcome discrimination and infringement of human rights and promote harmony between Indigenous and other Australians.

Highly Commended

Greg Bearup, Sydney Morning Herald, for the feature article Mean Streets.

Arts Non-Fiction Award

Carolyn Landon and Daryl Tonkin for the book Jackson’s Track: Memoir of a Dreamtime Place, a story about the life of Daryl Tonkin and his beloved Aboriginal wife Euphemia who, from the 1930s to the present, lived and worked along Jackson’s Track in Gippsland in South Eastern Victoria.

The judges were unanimous in awarding the Arts Non-Fiction Award to Daryl Tonkin and Carolyn Landon for Jackson’s Track. The story of Daryl Tonkin’s life at Jackson’s Track in the Gippsland region of south-eastern Victoria and his experiences as a white man who defied convention by marrying across race ‘lines’ and living with an Aboriginal community in the 1930s and 40s. It is an inspiring story of loyalty, honesty, and the human connections that can transcend racial differences.

Highly Commended

John Moriarty for his biographical book Saltwater Fella.


Internet Site -

The Commission’s website is a major educative tool; and is used widely by government, legal, community and employer organizations, the media, schools and individuals to obtain information about human rights and responsibilities and anti-discrimination law and practice.

The site was moved to a new hosting service and redesigned in February 2001 to further enhance the accessibility and usability of the Commission’s web resources for all users. Improvements to the site include:

  • General look and feel updated to create a more current and consistent style across the entire site.
  • Navigation options and search functionality has been enhanced to provide users with quicker, easier access to the information they are seeking.
  • New Online Publications have been created in more usable, accessible and appealing formats.
  • Accessibility for people with disabilities has been further enhanced in line with both the National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines. The Disability Rights section of the site is particularly accessible and provides a good example of ‘best-practice’ in web design for users with a disability.

The Commission’s website is maintained to ensure that the most up to date information is posted daily, and all reports, submissions, media releases and other Commission publications are available online. The site also provides specific information pages and publications for schools including Youth Challenge – a collection of resources for teachers and students; the Pregnancy Guidelines which provide information for employers; and Information in Other Languages which provides information for people from non-English speaking backgrounds about the Commission, the complaint handling process and the law. An Online Complaint form has also been set up and allows individual’s to lodge complaints with the Commission electronically.

The Commission’s e-mail based Electronic Mailing List service is also provided for regular communications to all constituency groups including community, and government. Instructions on joining the Commission’s Electronic Mailing list service are available at

There are currently more than 7000 subscribers across fifteen different lists including the Children and Youth list (approx 2000 subscribers) , the Disability Rights Update (approx 1000 subscribers), the Indigenous Issues list (approx 600 subscribers), the Racial Discrimination Issues list (approx 700 subscribers) and the Sex Discrimination Issues list (approx 1000 subscribers).

The Commission’s site also provides an online web feedback for which allows users to request help with research and provide feedback on the Commission’s online resources. Thousands of messages have been received from, legal, government, community and employer organisations, the media, schools and individuals during the year and are responded to by Commission staff within 5 working days.

During rehosting, an improved Web Statistics system was implemented. This allows the Commission to track how visitors are using the site, and allows us to identify materials that are particularly successful or popular. Usage of the site has increased over the year with approximately 18,766,360 hits on the server during the 2000–01 financial year (a daily average of over 50,000 hits per day). This translates to approximately 2,268,000 web pages viewed on the site during the 2000–01 financial year.

A summary of statistical information is provided below:

  • The Commission home page - 175, 520 page views
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice section home page - 25, 876 page views
  • The Complaints Information section home page - 13, 524 page views
  • The Disability Rights section home page - 40, 932 page views
  • The Human Rights section home page - 28, 044 page views
  • The Racial Discrimination section home page - 28, 480 page views
  • The Sex Discrimination section home page - 36, 732 page views
  • The Frequently Asked Questions - 11, 564 page views
  • The Publications page - 12, 836 page views

Note: All statistics above are based on page views during the 2000–01 financial year.

Community Information Program

During the reporting year the Public Affairs Section and the Complaint Handling Section of the Commission continued an information program targeting peak community sector organisations, commonwealth agencies, employers and legal and service providers.

Other details of this program conducted by the Complaint Handling Section is contained later in this report.

The Public Affairs Section conducted week long sessions in Queensland, Western Australia and ACT with a range of federal and local government agencies, as well as peak legal disability, women and ethnic groups. Information was provided about human rights and anti-discrimination laws and the role and function of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Over 300 people representing senior and middle management in government legal and community groups attended the presentations.

Evaluations of the presentations show they are very useful in providing information about human rights and anti-discrimination law and practices in Australia.

The presentations are supported by a Complaints Help Page on the Commission web site

Distribution of hard copy publications about the Commission

In addition to all Commission publications being made available on the Commission website, during the reporting year, some 99, 514 publications were dispatched in hard copy format.

The most requested publications were brochures about the Sex Discrimination Act and the Guide to Making a Complaint to the Commission, followed by the updated version of Face the Facts.

A list of all new publications can be found at Appendix 2.

Media engagement and press releases

The media is a very valuable tool in the delivery of information to the general public about human rights and equal opportunity. The Commission wherever appropriate engages with all forms of media to emphasise the importance of an independent national human rights institution and to preserve the integrity of human rights and anti-discrimination law within Australia.

Media activity has been intense over the past year with media preparation for the tabling in Federal Parliament of the Native Title and Social Justice reports 2000; the launch of the Workplace Pregnancy Guidelines and International Women’s Day activities; launch of open-captioned movies and development of disability action plans for the banking industry; and the launch of Face the Facts.

This is in addition to the many reports and other publications that have been produced by the Commission and detailed later in this report.

Individual Commissioners have contributed to public debate on a range of issues including the ‘IVF Bill’, the Flood report into immigration detention centres and the Commission’s report into Curtin immigration detention centre and reform of the UN Treaty system.

Some 80 press releases have been issued by the President and the Commissioners during 2000-01. These can be found on the Commission website at:

A selection of speeches and opinion pieces that have been published in major newspapers from the President and individual Commissioners is available for viewing at:

1. Studies is a privately produced educational resource magazine. It is sent out to all secondary schools throughout Australia three times a year. The Commission produced several articles for placement in three editions of the magazine during 1999-2000.)