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Annual Report 2002-2003: Chapter 1

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: Annual Report 2002 - 2003

Chapter 1: The Commission


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
  • promoting community ownership of human rights.

To ensure that Australians:

  • have access to independent human rights complaint handling and public inquiries processes
  • 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
  • the pursuit of best practice.


The Commission is a 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 for further information.

President – The Hon. John von Doussa QC

Professor Alice Tay’s five year term as President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Professor Tay concluded on 31 May 2003.

The Hon. John von Doussa was appointed President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission on 1 May 2003 for a five year term.

At the time of his appointment he was a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, an appointment he had held since 1988. He was also the President of the Australia Competition Tribunal, a Presidential Member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, an Additional Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, and a Judge of the Industrial Relations Court of Australia. From 1992 until shortly before his appointment he was also a part-time Commissioner of the Australian Law Reform Commission. From 1986 to 1988 he was a Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia.

Before his appointment as a Judge he was a Queens Counsel practising mainly in South Australia, and had served terms as the President of the Law Society of South Australia, and Vice-President of the Law Council of Australia.

In South Australia he had a close interest in the organisation and provision of practical legal training for newly qualified graduates in law. At different times he was the chair of advisory committees for the graduate diploma courses in legal practice conducted by the University of South Australia and by the Law Society of South Australia. In 1996 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University of South Australia in recognition of that involvement. He received a Centenary Medal in 2003.

In 1993 he sat as an Acting Judge in the Supreme Court of Vanuatu. In 1997 he became a member of the Court of Appeal of Vanuatu. In 2003 he was appointed a non-resident member of the Supreme Court of Fiji. He continues to hold these appointments.

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.

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. 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, New South Wales. 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).

Dr Ozdowski has been acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner since December 2000.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner – Ms Pru Goward

Pru Goward was appointed Sex Discrimination Commissioner for a five-year term from 30 July 2001. She is an economist by training and a broadcaster and journalist by practice.

Ms Goward completed an Arts degree with Honours in Economics from the University of Adelaide while teaching high school in Adelaide during the 1970s. She later tutored at the University while conducting Masters Research.

She spent 19 years with the ABC as a reporter and later a political commentator, but has also been a university lecturer in Broadcast Journalism, a university Economics tutor, high school teacher, freelance writer and media consultant.

In 1997, she was appointed head of the Commonwealth Office of the Status of Women for a period of two years. During that time the Office became responsible for the first national program of domestic violence prevention and initiated changes for the fairer division of superannuation at divorce.

Prior to her role at the Commission, she was National Director of the Australian Property Institute. Ms Goward is also on the board of the John Curtin School of Medical Research and a member of the Arab Australia Council. She is an ambassador for Good Beginnings, patron of Flair, ambassador for Anglicare in Canberra and Goulburn and is Official Patron of the ANU Australian Rules Football Club.


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
  • 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.

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 the:

  • 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
  • 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
  • make discrimination on the basis of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, unlawful
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Unlawful discrimination and human rights complaints.
  • Human rights compliance.
  • 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, for example there is no reasonable prospect of settling the complaint by conciliation or the complaint is lacking in substance. 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 and is not discontinued for other reasons 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).

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

8. Examine enactments.

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 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
  • 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.


Budget 2002–03


Actual Expenses 2002–03


Budget 2003–04


Total Administered Expenses
Prices of Department Outputs

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

13, 511
Subtotal Output Group 1
Revenue from Government

(Appropriation) for Departmental

Revenue from other sources
Total Price of Outputs
Total for Outcome (Total Price

of Outputs and Administered

Staff years (number)



Human rights education and promotion

A central function of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is to undertake education programs that increase public awareness and generate discussion of human rights and anti-discrimination issues within Australia.

The Commission’s legislative responsibilities are:

1. To promote an understanding and acceptance of, and compliance with, the relevant Act:

  • Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act section 11(1)(g)
  • Racial Discrimination Act section 20(1)(b)
  • Sex Discrimination Act section 48(1)(d)
  • Disability Discrimination Act 67(1) (g)

2. To undertake research and education programs for the purpose of promoting the objects of the relevant Act:

  • Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act section 11(1)(h)
  • Racial Discrimination Act section 20(1)(c)
  • Sex Discrimination Act section 48(1)(e)
  • Disability Discrimination Act section 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.

All work undertaken by the Commission has a human rights educative base from the handling of individual complaints of discrimination or harassment to the conduct of national Inquiries such as the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

The Commission uses a range of strategies to communicate its key messages to the community including:

  • Organisation of promotional events such as the annual Human Rights Awards.
  • Hosting of conferences and events which promote human rights issues.
  • Curriculum-linked education materials for teachers and students on human rights and anti-discrimination issues.
  • Human rights website materials for individuals, students, teachers, employers, government and community groups.
  • Media engagement by the President and Commissioners with metropolitan, regional and specialist press, radio and television outlets.
  • Community consultations and presentations by Commissioners and staff.
  • Preparation and distribution of plain English publications on human rights and discrimination.
  • Specific human rights educational and promotional programs conducted by individual Commissioners are detailed later in this Report.

2002 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 2002 Medal and Awards presentation ceremony was held on 10 December 2002 at a luncheon at “Dockside” Cockle Bay Wharf in Sydney. Guest speaker was Professor Lowitja O’Donoghue, who delivered an inspiring speech entitled In the Name of Protection. Media personality, Julie McCrossin kindly donated her services as MC.

The Commission is very grateful for the services of the judging panels who give their time and expertise on an honorary basis.

The judges for the 2002 Medal and Awards were: Mr Nick Xynias AO BEM, Professor Gillian Triggs, Professor Larissa Behrendt, John Highfield, Mick O’Regan, Steve Ahern, Sandra Symons, Jacqui Rees, Mike Steketee, Marc Purcell, Brigid Inder, Susan Harris, Associate Professor Brian Kiernan, Doreen Mellor, Allan Russell, Karla Grant, Glenys Rowe, Greg Pickhaver (H.G. Nelson), The Hon Justice C Branson, Mr Nicholas R Cowdery QC, Ms Ruth McColl S.C.

Information on the 2002 winners can be found below and on the Commission’s website at

Human Rights Medal

Winner: Michael Raper, Director, Welfare Rights Centre

Michael Raper Michael Raper, recipient of the 2002 Human Rights Medal

Michael Raper has been Director of the Welfare Rights Centre in Sydney since 1990 and President of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) from 1997–2001. He is currently Treasurer of the International Council of Social Work and Treasurer of the South East Asian Chapter.

At the Welfare Rights Centre, Mr Raper and his team deal with over 4 000 low income and disadvantaged clients each year, providing advice and assistance to ensure they can exercise their obligations, rights and entitlements under the Australian social security system.

As ACOSS President, Mr Raper was highly regarded for his passionate commitment, unfailing energy and public advocacy for systemic change to reduce poverty, inequality and hardship in Australia.

The judges were deeply impressed with the impact of Mr Raper’s work, and commended him for the valuable work he has undertaken behind the scenes in a field that is often overlooked and receives little acclaim.

Highly Commended

Jean Williams, is highly commended by Human Rights Medal judging panel member Professor Larissa BehrendtJean Williams, is highly commended by Human Rights Medal judging panel member Professor Larissa Behrendt

Jean Williams from Queensland has spent over a decade raising issues concerning the health and welfare of Vietnam Veterans and their families. Through her books, which include Children of the Mist, Mrs Williams has highlighted issues of injustice and human rights breaches in Australia related to the effects of Agent Orange used by the US Government during the Vietnam War.

The judges commended Mrs Williams for the balanced and evidence-based approach she has taken to a sensitive and devastating issue and her long-term, voluntary and largely unrecognised commitment to an area which receives little attention.

Community Award

Joint winners: The Australian Arabic Council and The Asylum Seeker Project – Hotham Mission

Two Melbourne-based community groups shared the 2002 Human Rights Award for Community – the Australian Arabic Council and The Asylum Seeker Project, Hotham Mission.

Australian Arabic Council

Since its establishment as a national organisation in 1992, the Australian Arabic Council (AAC) has campaigned against racism, promoted tolerance and raised awareness of human rights through education.

The Council constantly campaigns for more accurate media representation of Arabic issues and promotes the contribution of Arab civilisation to history and to Australian society.

The judges said the Council had a large and dedicated band of volunteers whose work often went unrecognised. They were impressed by the AAC’s concrete, practical initiatives on racial vilification and cultural diversity and commended them for providing leadership against racial intolerance.

The Asylum Seeker Project at Hotham Mission

This Melbourne project supports around 200 asylum seekers living in the community who do not have work rights, Medicare, welfare benefits or settlement support and are on bridging visas awaiting a final outcome of their applications for asylum. The group rely almost completely on project support for housing, monthly living assistance and social and professional support.

The judges praised the project for its grassroots approach, and acknowledged its work, primarily through volunteers, in providing solutions to problems through direct, practical help and by policy proposals to government, such as the alternative detention model. Hotham Mission has in fact shown it can house asylum seekers released from detention on a systematic basis.

Law Award – sponsored by the Law Council of Australia

Winner: SCALES (The Southern Communities Advocacy and Legal Education Service) Community Legal Centre

The Law Award went to a community advocacy and legal centre in Western Australia – the SCALES Community Legal Centre, which operates in the Rockingham/Kwinana region south west of Perth.

SCALES identifies its work as human rights advocacy through individual casework, community development projects and law reform. SCALES’ clients are young people, refugees and asylum seekers, women escaping domestic violence and public housing tenants.

A key element of SCALES’ success is the Clinical Legal Education Program it operates in conjunction with the Murdoch University School of Law, which provides training and education of law students in human rights practice.

Speaking on behalf of the three judges at the Awards ceremony in Sydney, Nicholas Cowdery QC, said: “We were impressed by the strong human rights culture the centre engendered and reinforced. SCALES’ work in training and educating law students in human rights law and practice enabled the legal service to be of a broader benefit to the community as well as the individual clients”.

Radio Award

Winner: ABC Classic FM – The Listening Room

On the Raft, All at Sea. Reporters: Robyn Ravlich and Russell Stapleton

2002 Human Rights Radio Award winners Robyn Ravlich (giving acceptance speech) and Russell Stapleton (far right, holding certificates), accepting their awards for their radio documentary On the Raft, All at Sea.2002 Human Rights Radio Award winners Robyn Ravlich (giving acceptance speech) and Russell Stapleton (far right, holding certificates), accepting their awards for their radio documentary On the Raft, All at Sea.

‘On the Raft, All at Sea’, a powerful radio documentary about the experience of three generations of asylum seekers.

The documentary uses the metaphor of a famous early 19th century painting, ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ by French Romantic painter Gericault, depicting shipwrecked survivors clinging to a flimsy raft adrift at sea, as a reference point for a contemporary exploration of why three asylum seekers risked hazardous journeys across different seas at different times.

The three asylum seekers are: Tuong Quang Luu, one of the first South Vietnamese to become a boat person after the fall of Saigon, who now heads SBS Radio; Sam, an Iraqi who fled Saddam Hussein’s regime and paid people smugglers in Indonesia for passage to Australia and who now educates high school students about refugees; and Rudy Jacobsen, a child survivor of the ‘Voyage of the Damned’, where the SS St Louis sailed from Hitler’s Germany in 1939 carrying over 900 Jewish refugees who were denied landing visas in Cuba, the USA and Canada.

Speaking for the Radio judges, the ABC’s John Highfield described the program as “radio at its best, using imagery to evoke human rights issues common to three generations of asylum seekers, drawing on intergenerational commonalities across time to show how lessons from these issues have not been taken by those who represent us”.

Print Media Award

Winner: Russell Skelton, The Age

Series of articles on asylum seeker issues

The judges described as “powerful, informative and empathetic” the series of articles by Russel Skelton.

His series of articles printed between May and September 2002 address the gap between Australia’s immigration policy and its implementation.

The lead report, ‘Tales from Behind the Fence’, was the first detailed account of conditions at Woomera based upon the evidence of those who worked inside. Other articles tackled a range of issues including: the alleged persecution of non-Muslims in detention; the conflicted role of the Immigration Minister, who acts as official guardian to a group of unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan, and; the trial of the first person charged with people smuggling under legislation passed in 2001.

Television Award

Winner: Four Corners, ABC TV, ‘Duty of Care’

Andrew Fowler (reporter), Anne Connolly (producer),

Sarah Curnow and Jo Puccini (researchers)

The program examined the well intentioned social reform of opening the doors of big institutions and the dramatic lack of subsequent community-based support to help mentally ill people released from those institutions to live in the wider community.

The program illustrated how this shift has resulted in sometimes tragic results. Interviews with grieving families of young people who had taken their own lives after being refused an acute care bed, or after absconding from an understaffed ward, were shown. Professionals told of how they were forced to take dangerous gambles, ejecting seriously ill people from hospital to make beds available for new arrivals. Families conveyed the enormous stress as they battled to keep their loved ones living, with minimal backup.

The judges believed the program was comprehensive and well-researched and exposed the mental health system in New South Wales as one which has failed people with mental illness.

Arts Non-Fiction Award

Winner: Faith – A biography of Faith Bandler, Professor Marilyn Lake

Faith, Professor Marilyn Lake’s biography of Faith Bandler, one of Australia’s best loved and most widely respected citizens, was awarded the award in the Arts Non-Fiction category.

Faith is the story of her remarkable life, her journey from childhood in a South Sea Islander community in Northern New South Wales, to national recognition as one of Australia’s leading human rights activists.

As the leader of campaigns for Aboriginal rights and against racial discrimination, Faith Bandler emerged as a compelling public figure – a politically effective woman in a public culture dominated by men. Her leadership and influence were crucial to the success of the 1967 referendum on citizenship rights for Indigenous people.

The judges found Faith to be engrossing, gently layered and substantial, promoting idealism, carrying an inspirational message, and that by opening a window into historical events and the impulses behind them, the biography provides a valuable resource for future activists.

Regional Workshop on National Human Rights Institutions, Human Rights Education, Media and Racism

This workshop which was held on 15–16 July 2002 was hosted by the Commission and co-sponsored by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.

It bought together the National Human Rights Institutions of New Zealand, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Korea, Malaysia, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda, as well as a number of state-based anti-discrimination bodies, representatives of the federal and state Governments and a large number of non-government organisations including: Amnesty International, Australian Council for Overseas Aid, Public Interest Advocacy Council, Islamic Council and several representatives from United Nations agencies.

The goal of the workshop was to provide national human rights institutions with strategies and skills to strengthen their capacity to use the media to promote human rights education, particularly as it relates to educating against racism.

A diverse range of speakers presented issues such as freedom of expression versus freedom of the press; best practice standards for education about human rights; strategies for the development of information and resource networks. A group of media consultants provided skills training to participants about how to deal with the media.

Papers from this conference are available on the Asia Pacific Forum website

Human rights education for teachers and students

The Commission’s formal education strategy is aimed at teachers and school students and is conducted by way of workshops and on-line web materials and activities. The materials are developed to provide teachers with a range of teaching materials which are all curriculum linked. In this way teachers can use the materials in the context of the particular subject area they are required to teach. Teaching strategies, activities and links to useful resources are all supplied as part of the resource.

The information about the materials is then disseminated directly to teachers by way of e-mail list serve messages. Some 3 500 teachers subscribe to the Commission’s electronic mailing list. 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.

From 1998 to 2000, the Commission 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 community.

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.

Youth Challenge workshops with a focus on sexual harassment in schools will recommence in September 2003. They will be accompanied by curriculum linked education materials and videos, and held in Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland and in other states during 2004.

Every Secondary School in Australia will receive a 12-page article ‘Tackling Sexual Harassment in Schools’ education resource by way of Studies Magazine during August 2003. Studies is a privately produced education resource produced by Ryebuck Media who are consultants for the Commission in the presentation of the Youth Challenge workshops.

Information for Students web pages

This section of the Commission’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 59 969 people accessed this section during 2002–03. 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, with 55 586 page views in 2002–03.

On-line human rights education modules

In 2001, the Commission developed and published the first on-line human rights education program for teachers of 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 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 students.

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 human rights and discrimination issues. They allow students, regardless of their learning styles/abilities, to participate.

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 on-line program is broken into three distinct units:

1. Human 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.

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 (66 961 people accessed Youth Challenge during 2002–03).

Information for Teachers website info_for_teachers/

Information for Teachers websiteIn 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 with 112 690 users accessing the section during 2002–03.

The portal is the on-line framework for this education program. It contains:

  • Education Modules: Youth Challenge and other education modules.
  • Current Issues Series: issue focused sets of activities.
  • Human Rights Resources: links to external human rights resources for teachers.
  • HR Education Mailing List: an electronic mailing list with monthly updates.

Current Issues Series

Current Issues Series The Commission receives regular requests from teachers and students for material on current human rights issues. Responding to this need, the Commission developed a current issues series.

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 the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families: Bringing them home. The activities direct teachers and students interested in the film/book to the Inquiry report.

A second module focused on paid maternity leave to coincide with the launch of a policy paper by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. The activities demonstrate to students how paid maternity leave raised issues of sex discrimination and equal opportunity that are relevant to their lives.

Face the FactsFace the Facts

Education Module

A new education module is to be released in July 2003 to accompany the updated version of Face the Facts. The activities in this module link to a range of key learning areas in relation to the prevailing myths concerning immigration, refugees and asylum seekers and Indigenous peoples.

The resource is for junior and senior high school students across all states and territories. Teaching notes, students activities and worksheets will be provided, plus a range of recommended resources for further reading.

Teaching Human Rights and Responsibilities – a resource for secondary school teachers

A hard copy resource for secondary school teachers which expands on the Human Rights in the Classroom module of the Youth Challenge on-line resource will be launched in September 2003.

The curriculum-linked resource has learning outcomes such as: developing an understanding of what human rights are; appreciating the relationship between rights and responsibilities; and applying the concept of human rights to their daily lives.

Promotion of on-line education materials

In addition to developing this material, the Commission has actively promoted the on-line education program, targeting teachers across Australia. A promotional strategy was developed and executed. Below are the main promotional activities.

Posters and postcards

The Commission produced a series of posters and postcards and sent them to over 3 000 schools nationally. The materials are available as downloads from the website. They were also distributed across teacher organisations, curriculum development bodies, education networks and education journals.

Electronic mailing list

The Commission send each month to 3 500 self-subscribed educators a monthly update:

  • A link to the most recent set of human rights education activities.
  • Reviews and links to human rights education resources.
  • Reviews of particular sections of the commission’s website which are useful for educators.
  • A list of upcoming human rights education events.

Advertising and editorial

The Commission continues to place advertisements in the education serials/journals for each state and territory. The next period of advertising is planned for new educational modules described above.

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 Commission also works to include links to our program on other websites. In particular, the national on-line education resource, EdNA On-line, regularly features information on our education program.

Submission to an Inquiry on Human Rights and Good Governance Education in the Asia Pacific Region

An invitation was received from the Chair of the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade to participate in an Inquiry into Human Rights and Good Governance Education in the Asia Pacific Region. Public Affairs coordinated a submission to the Inquiry and nominated officers appeared before the Committee. See the submission on-line at Commission website –

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

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 on-line.

Major additions and improvements

Ongoing development of the Commission’s on-line human rights education resources including:

  • Further development of the Youth Challenge web pages, including Youth Challenge videos available ‘live’ on-line.
  • Publication of the Paid Maternity Leave – Activities on Gender Equality in the Workforce education resource.
  • Ongoing work has been undertaken to create links with useful portals, on-line directories and relevant websites to ensure that the Commission’s on-line resources are easy to locate.
  • Ongoing development of the Commission’s metadata records to ensure easier access to Commission materials from government portals and other search engines. Metadata is created in line with the Australian Government Locator System.
  • Ongoing improvements to website to ensure accessibility to all users, including those utilising adaptive technologies. The Commission’s website meets recognised best practice standards for usable and accessible web design, including compliance with the World Wide Web Consortium’s guidelines on accessibility and implementation of recommendations from the National Office of the Information Economy.
  • Publication of more than 200 submissions and transcripts of hearings on the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention section of the website.
  • Development of a number of mini-sites within the Commission’s main website to provide information on a range of events and issues including:
    • Cyberracism Symposium.
    • Human Rights Awards 2002.
    • Corporate Responsibility – site developed from a forum entitled ‘Resource Development on Aboriginal Land; a Human Rights Approach’.
    • Isma– Listen! National consultations on eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians webpages.
    • E-race – an on-line forum designed for people to comment on current race discrimination issues
  • Publication of a range of reports prepared by the Commission including:
    • A Time to Value – Paid Maternity Leave Proposal
    • Social Justice Report 2002
    • Native Title Report 2002

Electronic mailing lists and feedback facility

The Commission’s email based electronic mailing list service provides for regular communications to all constituency groups including community and government. There are currently more than 13 761 subscribers across 10 different lists:

Mailing List
Number of subscribers
Complaints and Legal Information
1 132
Disability Rights Update
1 404
Human Rights Awards Alert
Human Rights Education
3 640
Human Rights
1 259
Indigenous Issues
Media Mailing List
Priority Mailing List
1 206
Race Discrimination
1 004
Sex Discrimination
1 503
Total subscribers
13 761

Further information about HREOC’s electronic mailing list service is available at:

Website feedback

The Commission’s feedback facility allows users to request help with research and provide constructive feedback on the Commission’s on-line resources and site accessibility. 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 five working days.


The Commission uses a web statistics system which tracks the number of visitors the site has and how visitors are using the site. This allows the Commission to identify materials that are particularly successful or popular and where we have room for improvement.

Usage of the site has increased over the year with approximately 4 372 899 page views on the server during 2002–03, an increase of 1 167 206 page views compared to 3 205 693 page views in 2001–02. This equates to 39 603 089 hits on the site for 2002–03.

A summary of statistical information is provided below:

Index page views

page views

HREOC Homepage

277 960
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

58 777
432 462
Complaints Information

35 802
108 803
Disability Rights Homepage

69 839
581 345
Human Rights Homepage

58 590
616 045
Legal Info Homepage
31 942
97 600
Racial Discrimination Homepage

68 037
280 914
Sex Discrimination Homepage

82 902
298 098
Information for Teachers Homepage

28 982
112 690
Information for Students Homepage

41 761
59 969
Youth Challenge Homepage

11 289
66 961
Information for Employers Homepage

33 254
75 562
Information in Other Languages Homepage

20 296
55 853
Human Rights Explained Homepage
31 126
55 586
Publications Homepage
34 083
37 770
Electronic Mailing List Homepage
24 188
24 253
Media Releases Index

29 802
389 949
National Inquiry into Children in Immigration

Detention Homepage

15 965
180 256
Job Vacancies Homepage
40 407
49 265

Commission publications

Face the factsIn addition to all Commission publications being made available on the Commission’s website, around 83 200 publications were dispatched in hard copy format during 2002–03.

The most popular publications were Face the Facts: Some Questions and Answers about Immigration, Refugees and Indigenous Affairs, the Commission’s Complaint Guide, A Time to Value: Proposal for a Paid Maternity Leave scheme and Don’t Judge What I Can Do By What You Think I Can’t: Ten years of achievements using Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act.

A list of publications released during 2002–03 can be found at Appendix 2 of this Report.

Media engagement

The Commission’s 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 provides human rights education materials for schools direct to teachers via the Commission electronic mailing listserve.

Engagement with the media is a crucial aspect of the Commission’s public education function. Wherever possible 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 work of the Commission and of the Commissioners.

In the past year, Commissioners have contributed 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.

The Commission also promotes the Human Rights Medal and Awards, which include a category to recognise an outstanding contribution to human rights through the print media, radio or television.

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, was the focus of significant media interest with her proposal for a national scheme for paid maternity leave with the release of the final paper in December 2002 Time to Value: Proposal for a national scheme of paid maternity leave.

There was also substantial media interest in the submissions to the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention and the public hearings which were held in all Australian states. Media representatives have been kept informed about the progress of the Inquiry.

The Report on Visits to Immigration Detention Facilities by the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Sev Ozdowski, tabled in parliament in October 2002, also gained national media coverage.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Bill Jonas, launched his 2002 Social Justice and Native Title reports in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Alice Springs, Broome and Darwin at public events where Indigenous speakers discussed the future of reconciliation and the issues raised in the reports. There was media coverage of most of the launches by print media, radio and television.

Dr Jonas launched Isma– Listen: National consultations on eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians with consultations throughout Australia, which attracted considerable media interest.

Commissioner Jonas, Senator Aden Ridgeway and Labor member Carmen Lawrence attended a joint press conference at Parliament House in Canberra in August 2002, to launch the Senate Inquiry into Reconciliation.

The 10th anniversary of the federal Disability Discrimination Act and the launch of a report by the acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner, outlining the achievements made in 10 years under the Act attracted media at the forums held in Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Canberra and Darwin.

The Commission also issued statements about changes to immigration laws and to laws governing security and promoted its intervention in the ‘Al Masri’ case, the ‘Trudy Gardner’ case, the Catholic Education Office request for exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act, the High Court’s Miriuwung-Gajerrong decision, the Federal Court’s decision in ‘Jones v Scully’, the Federal Court decisions in the ‘Toben’ case on race hate and the internet and intervention in the ‘privative clause’ case. (see the Legal section at Chapter 3 of this Report for further information).

In the past year, the Commission has issued 95 media releases and the President and Commissioners have had published a range of opinion pieces and articles in major newspapers throughout Australia.

Community contacts

Commissioners and staff met with peak bodies and community groups on a range of issues during the year. Some of the significant consultations are noted below.

Disability rights

More than 60 consultations were held by the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and staff, including forums in each capital city in March 2003 on achievements and priorities in using the Disability Discrimination Act, with a particular focus on employment and transport issues. Other consultations included:

  • 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 a forum on accessible and adaptable housing.
  • Education. Several meetings of working groups on accessibility of educational materials.
  • Telecommunications. Discussions with industry and community representatives in preparation of a major discussion paper on telecommunications accessibility.
  • Local government. Discussions with several local government areas on access issues and development and implementation of action plans.

Human rights

The Human Rights Commissioner conducted a number of public consultations. These may be broadly characterised into two groups:

  • National Human Rights Dialogue. Meetings were held in at least 18 locations, addressing groups as diverse as the Toowoomba community within the campus of the University of Southern Queensland, the 2002 FECCA National Conference, the Great Lakes ‘Rural Australians for Refugees’ within Forster High School and the ‘Sir Frank Kitto Oration’ to law undergraduates of UNE, to pick some at random.
  • National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Public hearings were held in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney (twice), while nine focus groups were conducted in Adelaide, two in Brisbane and one in Sydney.

Race discrimination

More than 150 consultations and meetings were convened or attended by the Race Discrimination Commissioner and/or his staff. They included:

  • 43 consultations in NSW, Victoria, ACT, the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia, as part of Isma – Listen: National consultations on eliminating prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians.
  • 29 meetings to progress the Commissioner’s recommendations relating to a community relations strategy for Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.
  • Seven briefings on HREOC functions and anti-racism programs for international visitors to the Commission.

Sex discrimination

The Sex Discrimination Commissioner and staff conducted over 107 public consultations and formal meetings in 2002–03 and these included:

  • Paid maternity leave. A further 20 consultations were conducted during this financial year on the issue of paid maternity leave, following the 61 consultations held in 2001–02. Specifically, two roundtables were held, one with academics who specialize in this area of social policy, and the other with key employer, union and women’s group representatives. These consultations significantly contributed to the final paper A Time To Value: Proposal for national scheme of paid maternity leave.
  • Northern Territory Law Reform Committee Inquiry Into the Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Law in the Northern Territory. Prior to the preparation of the submission to this Inquiry, 26 consultations were carried out in Darwin, Alice Springs and Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory with Indigenous groups, local government and non-governmental organisations.
  • Trafficking in Women. Consultations on this issue have recently begun with a variety of stakeholders, including government representatives, non-governmental organisations and international agencies.
  • Sexual Harassment. Ongoing meetings are held with the Australian Defence Force in relation to the Force’s sexual harassment policy.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice

The Social Justice Commissioner’s office held at least 113 consultations during 2002–03. Many of these were in relation to issues relating to the annual social justice and native title reports. Significant consultations included:

  • Benchmarking reconciliation and human rights. Workshop convened by the Commissioner in Sydney on 28–29 November 2002 on integrating human rights approaches to measuring Indigenous disadvantage.
  • National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses. The Commissioner convened a Curriculum Development Advisory Committee for the development of these courses. The Committee met formally four times and was comprised of representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, educators, industry bodies, human rights and anti-discrimination commissions, and government.
  • Criminal justice issues. The Commissioner and staff met with government agencies and Indigenous organisations about juvenile diversionary schemes in the Northern Territory and Western Australia; mandatory sentencing in Western Australia; the situation of Indigenous women in corrections nationally; and the status of recognition Aboriginal Customary Law in the Northern Territory.
  • Consultations on the operation of the Native Title Act. The Commissioner and staff consulted with the National Native Title Tribunal, Federal Court, Native Title Representative Bodies, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, federal Attorney-General’s Department, state and territory departments and mining companies on the operation of the Native Title Act 1993, as well as with native title holders and claimants.