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HREOC - Annual Report 2001 - 2002: Chapter 1: The Commission

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Annual Report 2001-2002

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.

President - Professor Alice Tay AM

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.

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

Journalist, broadcaster and commentator Pru Goward was appointed Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner for a five year term from 30 July 2001.

Ms Goward has worked closely on issues of women's rights for several years, heading the Federal women's policy advisory unit, the Office of the Status of Women, from 1997 to 1999. She was appointed First Assistant Secretary of the Office, which reports directly to the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, after working as a national affairs journalist and political commentator for 19 years.

At the Office of the Status of Women, Ms Goward presided over the introduction of the first national program for the prevention of domestic violence - the largest program run by OSW with a budget of $50 million. She also oversaw the introduction of reform to superannuation laws for divorced couples.

Ms Goward completed an Economics degree with Honours from the University of Adelaide while teaching high school in Adelaide during the 1970s. She later tutored at the University while conducting Masters research. Over the past 10 years she has also run her own media management company, was a freelance newspaper and magazine columnist and a part-time lecturer in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Canberra.

Just prior to taking up the role of Sex Discrimination Commissioner, she was National Director of the Australian Property Institute. Ms Goward is also on the boards of the John Curtin School of Medical Research and the Neuroscience Institute for Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders. She 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 2001-02
Actual Expenses
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 activities.

12 503
14 672
12 955
Subtotal Output Group 1
12 503
14 672
12 955
Revenue from Government (Appropriation) for Departmental Outputs
10 730
10 730
11 137
Revenue from other sources
1 773
3 942
1 818
Total Price of Outputs
12 503
14 672
12 955
Total for Outcome (Total Price of Outputs and Administered Expenses)
12 503
14 672
12 955


Staff years (number)

Human rights education and promotion

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

The 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.

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

All work undertaken by the Commission has a human rights educative base from individual complaint handling to the conduct of a National Inquiry.

This section details the human rights educational and promotional programs undertaken on a whole of Commission basis.

These are:

  • Human Rights Medal and Awards
  • Online human rights education for teachers and students
  • Website materials for individuals, schools, employers and community groups
  • Distribution of hard copy publications about the Commission
  • Media engagement, interviews, opinion pieces and press releases
  • Community contacts.

Specific educational and promotional programs conducted by individual Commissioners are detailed later in this Report.

2001 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 2001 Medal and Awards presentation ceremony was held on 9 December 2001 at Star Court Darling Harbour in Sydney. Special guest was Professor Gillian Triggs, who delivered a paper entitled Contemporary Human Rights Law and Practice to 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 for the 2001 Medal and Awards were Rt Hon Ian Sinclair AC, Justice Elizabeth Evatt AC, Ms Jackie Huggins AM, Mr Nicholas Cowdery QC, Justice Catherine Branson, Ms Ruth McColl SC, Mr Mark Davis, Dr David McKnight, Ms Vivian Schenker, Dr Peter O'Brien, Mr Nick Xynias AO BEM, Ms Faye Druitt, Mr Jose Borghino and Dr Andrew Riemer.

Information on the 2001 winners can be found below. For details on the individuals and organisations who were highly commended please visit the Commission's website at

Human Rights Medal

Winner: The late Dr Arnold "Puggy" Hunter (1951-2001)

The late Dr Arnold

Dr Hunter's fearless advocacy and outstanding leadership in the important area of Indigenous health earned him the respect of a wide range of people. While he fought uncompromisingly for the cause of Aboriginal health, Dr Hunter was regarded respectfully, even affectionately, by his counterparts in politics and government. Upon his untimely and recent death, tributes to Dr Hunter poured in from around Australia - the Australian Medical Association, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, federal politicians, and medical boards expressed their loss and sadness. The Award acknowledges Dr Hunter's unwavering commitment over many years to improving Aboriginal health in the face of hostility, disruption to his family, financial hardship and his own health.

As the inaugural Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation since 1991 until his death, Dr Hunter had worked far beyond the level of his professional responsibility. He was a member of several key Aboriginal health policy and advisory groups. He negotiated framework agreements on Aboriginal health to improve the coordination of health service delivery by all spheres of government. He also negotiated Medicare agreements with the Federal Health Minister to give the Aboriginal Community Health Services the legal ability to bulk bill Medicare and arrangements under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to supply medicines through Aboriginal health services in remote areas.

Community Award

Winner: Women With Disabilities Australia

Established in 1994, Women With Disabilities Australia has achieved an enormous amount in a short period of time, working tirelessly on behalf of one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia. The group is the peak organisation for women with all types of disabilities, linking similar local and regional organisations across Australia. Its central aim is to improve the status of women with disabilities through education, support, information, and systemic and individual advocacy.

Although it has a domestic focus, the organisation has provided inspiration for women with disabilities all over the world and is often consulted by groups internationally, from the USA to the Ukraine. The organisation has achieved not only a high profile for itself, but advanced the interests of a previously marginalised group nationally. In early 2000, the organisation was invited by the United Nations to apply for the UN Millennium Peace Prize for Women. Women With Disabilities, Australia and its Executive Director Ms Carolyn Frohmader have received several other awards in recognition of their work.

Law Award

Winner: HIV/AIDS Legal Centre

The Law Award, sponsored by the Law Council of Australia, went to the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre. Operating with a small staff of just one full-time solicitor and two part-time support staff, the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre provides people living with HIV/AIDS with legal advice, and conducts law reform and community education projects in their interests. Over the past year they provided legal advice and representation to 666 clients. Areas of legal advocacy undertaken by the Centre include discrimination and vilification complaints, unfair dismissal, superannuation and insurance claims, complaints relating to medical and health services, and guardianships. The legal advice they provide is free - appropriate given the economic hardship which is faced by many living with HIV/AIDS. They also provide a broad range of legal services, from face-to-face advice through to legal representation in casework matters, and a hospital outreach service.

General Media Award

Winner: ABC Radio National - The Health Report. The Health of Asylum Seekers in Detention. Reporter: Ms Toni Hassan

Toni Hassan accepting the Human Rights Media Award 2001 for

This special report highlighted the health concerns, both physical and mental, of asylum seekers in detention centres. The report included interviews with a number of leading mental health and medical professionals, who gave disturbing testimony about the health of detainees. One of the practitioners interviewed is himself a detainee. The judges commended this entry for its deliberate reluctance to engage in debate about the legitimacy of refugee claims, focusing instead on the issue of conditions in detention centres. While there has been a breadth of media reportage and commentary on the issue of asylum seekers, much of this focus has been on whether such persons ought to be allowed entry into Australia. The experiences of those asylum seekers in the detention centres have remained peripheral to these discussions. The judges were also impressed by the extensive field work undertaken by Ms Hassan.

Winner: Four Corners, ABC Television. Inside Story. Producer: Mr Peter McEvoy, Reporter: Ms Debbie Whitmont

The judges said while they acknowledged the controversial nature of the program they were impressed with the human side of detention presented by the program. They said these were the voices that the Australian public had not heard before. Seeing asylum seekers as human beings, possibly for the first time, prompted many viewers to contact the Four Corners online forum about the show. About 5 000 people contacted the forum. Critics of the report, much of which was filmed inside the Villawood Detention Centre, said it contained factual errors and did not present a balanced view of conditions in detention centres. The producers denied the claims, saying they were based on a wilful misreading of the program. The judges said the program succeeded in expanding the debate over asylum seekers beyond the mere question of whether the claims of asylum seekers are legitimate. The result was a first person account of asylum seekers' experiences in detention in Australia.

Arts Non-Fiction Award

Winner: Borderline, Mr Peter Mares

Peter Mares' Borderline is a thoroughly researched yet tightly written book about Australia's treatment of asylum seekers. Mr Mares, the presenter of Asia Pacific on Radio Australia and Radio National, urges a more compassionate approach to asylum seekers while acknowledging the very real difficulties, in a political and practical sense, of implementing refugee policy.

The book is the culmination of extensive research into the legal and policy framework for asylum seekers and refugees entering Australia - and a collection of individual, sometimes heart wrenching, stories. The judges said the book was by far the most outstanding entry - an honest, thoughtful and powerful work. They said Peter Mares was able to identify and discuss the human rights issues surrounding asylum seekers without being politically partisan or doctrinaire.

Online human rights education for teachers and students

In 2001-02, the Commission developed a structured human rights education program for teachers of upper primary and secondary students. The program responds to growing demands for education resources of this kind, and the relative absence of such published material.

The material is available online from the Commission's main site. Materials are also available for download so that teachers need only have internet access once. The program consists of:

  • Online education modules (such as Youth Challenge).
  • Current Issues series.
  • Human rights education promotion, including making links with curricula.
  • External human rights education resource collection.
  • Electronic mailing list.

The success of the Commission's education program was underscored when Youth Challenge was short listed for the The Australian's '2002 Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing'.

The program is based on a critical pedagogy which focuses on the learning needs of all students, rather than the subject matter. This approach goes beyond merely teaching about international instruments and domestic laws, as valuable as these are to human rights education.

This teaching approach is:

  • Contextual: human rights are discussed in social contexts relevant to the learners.
  • Discursive: learning is based on discussion, exchanging ideas and values, understanding human communication.
  • Skills-oriented: human rights education develops skills, and is linked with literacy, numeracy and decision making skills (again, learner focused rather than subject area focused).
  • Cross-curricular: human rights, as human experience, are relevant to all aspects of learning, including numeracy and visual literacy.
  • Inclusive: allows all students, regardless of their learning styles/abilities, to participate.

This approach builds on trends in school and tertiary education that are developing across disciplines.

Youth Challenge - Teaching human rights and responsibilities

Youth Challenge - Teaching human rights and responsibilities - Promotional Postcard

Launched in late 2001, this was the first component of the Commission's education program. The module is an introduction to issues of human rights and discrimination in everyday life.

With Youth Challenge, students focus on real life issues such as sex, race and disability discrimination, sexual harassment, and rights in the workplace. It encourages students to explore the relevance of human rights to their own experiences and communities.

The online program is broken into three distinct units:

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. There is even a Human Rights Treasure Hunt.

Youth Challenge offers secondary school teachers a resource that is flexible and comprehensive. The materials can be used across many curricular areas including History, English, Civics/Citizenship, Legal Studies, and Studies of Society and Environment. The site provides teaching strategies, guides and worksheets that are easy to access.

The module was officially launched by Professor Alice Tay on 7 December 2001. Three guest speakers from the education sector, together with Senator Marise Payne, gave presentations on the importance of human rights education in schools. The launch was attended by over 80 people, mainly representatives from schools, education unions, peak youth agencies, technical colleges, peak education bodies and education department staff.

Information for Teachers

Information for Teachers - Promotional Postcard

Following the success of Youth Challenge, the Commission developed an online portal specifically for teachers, accessible from the main Commission site.

Teachers can now access a range of teaching materials on human rights from this Information for Teachers portal. The section is regularly updated to provide teachers with the most recent quality materials.

The portal is the online framework for this education program. It contains:

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

The Information for Teachers portal received special mention in the August 2002 issue of magazine.

Current Issues Series

The Commission receives requests from teachers and students each day for material on current human rights issues. Responding to this need, the Commission developed a current issues series, with a new issue each month.

The first of these was developed in May 2002 - The Stolen Generations. With the release of Rabbit-Proof Fence, a major feature film, the Commission prepared teaching activities linking the film and book (by Doris Pilkington) to Bringing them home and the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families. The activities direct teacher and student interest in the film/book to the Inquiry report

Bringing Them Home - Promotional Postcard

A second was developed in July 2002 focusing on the paid maternity leave campaign. The activities demonstrate to students how paid maternity leave raises issues of sex discrimination and equal opportunity that are directly relevant to their lives. For example, it includes a case study on Marla - a 16 year old considering her future career and personal directions.

The Current Issues Series is intended both to respond to the needs of teachers as well as to compliment policy priorities of the Commission.

Bringing them home - Stories from the Stolen Generations

The Commission is currently developing an online education module on Bringing them home, the Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.

The module adopts the theme of oral history and story telling as its approach to teaching about the Inquiry. The stories of individuals and communities, together with the histories of assimilation and state-sanctioned removal are the key elements.

Taking into consideration different learning skills, the module provides two sets of materials. One for junior students and one for senior students, as well as resource materials for tertiary level students.

The module will explore:

  • personal stories from the Inquiry
  • a history of laws and practices in each State and Territory
  • a brief history of colonisation in Australia and overseas
  • the effects and experiences of removals
  • recommendations from the Inquiry
  • the issue's connection with other Indigenous social justice issues, such as self determination, reconciliation and criminal justice.

It will also contain a number of online interactive elements.

The module is due for completion in October 2002.

Human rights and the curriculum

A strategy has been developed by the Commission to link the curriculum framework of the various state education departments with human rights education and Youth Challenge materials. South Australia was the first state where such links were made. The Human Rights Education Officer with the Commission presented these materials at a teachers' conference in March 2002 in South Australia where it received very positive feedback. The Commission is currently developing similar links with curricula in other states and territories. The advantages of this strategy are that teachers are encouraged to teach about human rights and responsibilities by being provided with interesting and relevant curriculum-based materials.

Every addition to the Commission's education program includes a comprehensive set of teaching notes responding to current teaching needs and pedagogies. The activities are structured to a set of learning outcomes and point to relevant curriculum areas. The Commission's Education Officer as been invited to a number of State Teachers Conferences to present the strategy and talk about the education materials.

Promoting online education

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

Posters and postcards

The Commission developed a poster and postcard series for Youth Challenge and sent them to over 3 000 schools nationally. Both are available as downloads from the website. The Commission also developed postcards for the Information for Teachers portal and each set of activities in the Current Issues Series. These are distributed across teacher organisations, curriculum development bodies, education networks and education journals.

Electronic mailing list

The Commission adopted a direct marketing approach by using a mailing list with 3 000 self-subscribed educators. The monthly updates include:

  • a link to the most recent set of activities under the Current Issues Series
  • reviews and links to human rights education resources
  • reviews of particular sections of the Commission's website that are useful for educators
  • a list of upcoming human rights education events.

Advertising and editorial

The Commission placed advertisements in the main education serials/journals for each State and Territory. Advertisements were included in Newsmonth (Independent Education Union, NSW/ACT), Education (NSW Teachers' Federation), Western Teacher (State School Teachers' Union of WA), The Independent Voice (Journal of the Queensland Independent Education Union) and AEU News (Australian Education Union, Victoria). The next period of advertising is planned after the launch of the Bringing them home module.

Professor Alice Tay's speech at the launch of Youth Challenge has appeared in most of the abovementioned journals.

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 online education resource, EdNA Online, regularly features information on our education program.

Ongoing evaluation

Since launching Youth Challenge, the Commission has set up a number of evaluation processes, allowing feedback for teachers and opportunities for teachers to make recommendations.

The first of these was a survey distributed with video purchases seeking feedback on how Youth Challenge is used in classes - the year levels, subject areas, sections being used and for what period of time (one class, one week etc). Feedback via the evaluation form is being used to develop education materials better tailored to the needs of teachers.

The feedback form is also available online. Surveys received to date are extremely positive. Youth Challenge has been used to teach subjects such as Junior Civics, Social Justice, Legal Studies and Religious Studies.

A human rights education email address was set up to deal with correspondence from teachers. The Commission is regularly contacted by teachers through this address, both in relation to Commission material but also to speak at events, recommend other education material on topics not covered by the Commission, and general support on human rights education. Approximately 30-50 queries are received each month.

Since the launch of the Information for Teachers portal in May 2002, the section has received over 30 000 page views (15 May 2002-30 June 2002).

Since the launch of Youth Challenge in December 2001, the section has received over 25 000 page views.

Complaint services promotion

The Commission actively promotes its complaint handling and complaint information services and other functions to targeted communities. A pilot program was undertaken in 2002 to advise in particular people of Vietnamese and Arabic speaking backgrounds and Indigenous Australians of these services.

The Commission ran advertisements with a number of community radio stations promoting the 1300 Complaint Infoline. The advertisements ran for a four week period in Sydney. Advertisements were also placed in three Indigenous newspapers monthly or bi-monthly over a six month period. Further, advertisements were placed in the New South Wales and Victorian monthly Law Journal for six months promoting the Commission's online complaint form and 1300 Complaint Infoline.

Some material about race discrimination complaints was prepared and distributed widely to Indigenous media, to accompany the advertising campaign in the Indigenous newspapers and to be used in its own right by other Indigenous media organisations to illustrate the sort of complaints received by the Commission.

Translation of brochures

While information on the website of the Commission is mainly in English, we have translated some material into other languages.

The two main translations were of the Complaint Guide and the Commission's general information brochure. They were translated into:

  • Arabic
  • Bosnian
  • Chinese
  • Croatian
  • Farsi
  • French
  • Greek
  • Indonesian
  • Polish
  • Serbian
  • Somali
  • Spanish
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese.

The translations are available from the Commission's website at in HTML and PDF formats.

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 online.

Major additions and improvements

Major additions and improvements to the site in 2001-02 include:

  • Online Complaint Form established on the site to enable complainants to lodge their complaint with the Commission electronically.
  • Development of a new Legal Information section, which contains a range of legal resources and links relevant to the work of Legal Services.
  • Improvements to the Commission's metadata records to ensure easier access to Commission materials from government portals and other search engines.
  • Implementation of the new Information for Teachers website, which provides human rights resources and links for use in Australian classrooms.
  • Development of a number of mini-sites within the Commission's main website to provide information on a range of events and issues including: Moving Forward: Achieving Reparations for the Stolen Generations conference, World Conference Against Racism, Human Rights Awards 2001, Beyond Tolerance Conference, United Nations Special Session on Children, National Human Rights Dialogue, Paid Maternity Leave and the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

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. Instructions on joining the Commission's electronic mailing list service are available at

There are currently more than 11 900 subscribers across 10 different lists including:

  • Children and Youth Issues - 2 496 subscribers.
  • Disability Rights Update - 1 026 subscribers.
  • Human Rights Education - 2 597 subscribers.
  • Human Rights Issues - 835 subscribers.
  • Indigenous Issues - 695 subscribers.
  • Racial Discrimination Issues - 767 subscribers.
  • Sex Discrimination Issues - 1 215 subscribers.

Website feedback

The Commission's feedback facility allows users to request help with research and provide constructive feedback on the Commission's online 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 3 205 693 page views on the server during 2001-02, an increase of 937 693 page views compared to 2 268 000 page views in 2000-01.

A summary of statistical information is provided below. Please note that page views by Commission staff are not included in these figures.

Homepage page views
Total section page views *
The Commission's homepage
220 876
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
45 799
300 093
Complaints Information
28 004
83 867
Disability Rights
58 470
447 182
Human Rights
48 307
315 385
Legal Information #
20 061
42 376
Racial Discrimination
51 035
185 567
Sex Discrimination
56 451
198 651
Information for Teachers ##
14 915
23 747
Information for Students
36 478
52 708
Youth Challenge - Teaching Human Rights and Responsibilities ###
11 730
56 791
National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention
11 376
39 341

* Page views for all pages within this section.
# The Legal Information section was launched in March 2002.
## The Information for Teachers website was launched in May 2002.
### The Youth Challenge website was launched in December 2001.
#### The National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention website was launched in November 2001.

Distribution of hard copy publications

In addition to all Commission publications being made available on the Commission's website, during the reporting year, some 95 374 publications were dispatched in hard copy format.

The most popular publications were Face the Facts: Some Questions and Answers about Immigration, Refugees and Indigenous Affairs, the Commission's Complaint Guide, and the postcards Youth Challenge and Information for Teachers.

A list of publications released during 2001-02 can be found at Appendix 2 of this Report.

Media engagement

Engagement with the media is a crucial aspect of the Commission's public education function. The Commission has engaged in public debate via the print and electronic media, uses "new" media such as the internet to provide substantial information to the public and to make human rights education material available to schools. The Commission also uses community announcements and niche or specialist media to provide general information on the Commission's complaints system, its legal interventions and other aspects of the Commission's work.

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.

Media activity has focussed primarily on the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, the options paper for Paid Maternity Leave and the promotion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice and Native Title reports 2001. The Commission also issued statements about changes to immigration laws and to laws governing security and promoted its intervention in the "Tampa" case, the "IVF" case and the "Kevin and Jennifer" case (see the Legal section at Chapter 3 of this Report for further information).

The National Inquiry has attracted substantial media interest and evidence given in public hearings in Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne has featured in news reports in press, radio and television. Media representatives have been kept informed about the progress of the Inquiry.

In the past year, the Commission has issued about 90 media releases and Commissioners have written a number of opinion pieces and articles.

The Commission also has also engaged directly with representatives of the media about their responsibility to report fairly and accurately, especially on race issues. Following the United States terrorist attacks on September 11 2001 the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Dr William Jonas called for Australians not to retaliate against Muslims in the community. In response to public criticism - about talkback radio in particular - Dr Jonas sent a memo to editors and executive producers to draw their attention to the racial hatred provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act.

A media forum was convened as part of Beyond Tolerance: a national conference on racism, held at the Sydney Opera House on 12 and 13 March 2002 which addressed the issues confronted by journalists reporting and commenting on race relations in 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.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice

The Social Justice Commissioner held at least 150 consultations during 2001-02, including consultations on the following issues:

  • Moving Forward. The national conference on stolen generations issues in August 2001 was attended by approximately 250 people.
  • Briefings on Social Justice and Native Title Reports. Briefings on the contents of the 2000 and 2001 reports were held with Government, community organisations and through public launches in July - August 2001 and May - June 2002.
  • Juvenile diversion. Consultations were held in Perth, Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Groote Eylandt and Katherine as part of the project on juvenile diversionary schemes in the Northern Territory and Western Australia between July and November 2001.
  • Corporate responsibility and native title. Consultations included the conduct of a two day forum with traditional owners, representatives of land councils and mining companies in Alice Springs in May 2002.
  • Consultations on the operation of the Native Title Act. Consultations were held with the National Native Title Tribunal, Federal Court, Native Title Representative Bodies and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission on the operation of the legislation, as well as with native title holders and claimants.

Disability Rights

More than 60 consultations were held by the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and staff, including hosting a two day forum for national peak disability representative organisations in December 2001. Other consultations included:

  • Banking. Regular ecommerce forum and specific consultations on banking industry accessibility standards.
  • 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, a well as participation in national information sessions on this process.
  • Education. National consultative meeting on access to tertiary education materials, in addition to participation in working group considering national standards on education under the Disability Discrimination Act.
  • Telecommunications. Participation in Australian Telecommunications Industry Forum disability working party.

Human Rights

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

  • United Nations Special Session on Children. Seven pre and post consultations with children and young people were carried out around Australia in locations as geographically diverse as Brisbane and Broome. The purpose behind the consultations was to allow expression of the thoughts of young Australians and on return to advise on outcomes from the Special Session.
  • National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention. Two public hearings have been held in Melbourne and Perth. Further hearings are expected to be held in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. In addition at least 30 focus groups have been coordinated.
  • National Human Rights Dialogue. Meetings were held in at least 20 locations addressing groups as diverse as the New South Wales Justices' Association to the Association of Major Charitable Organisations.

Race Discrimination

Over 31 consultations were conducted by the Race Discrimination Commissioner and staff in 2001-02. They included:

  • Eight consultations conducted with civil society around the country in relation to the themes of the World Conference Against Racism.
  • Thirteen consultations with Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups regarding race relations in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder community.
  • Other consultations/meetings were held on the Beyond Tolerance conference on racism; anti-Arabic and anti-Muslim vilification and attacks (post September 11); and national anti-racism strategies.

Sex Discrimination

Over 100 consultations were conducted by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner and staff in 2001-02. Sixty one of these consultations concerned the issue of paid maternity leave and included formal consultation forums in relation to the paid maternity leave options paper. Consultations included:

  • Paid maternity leave - regional. Community based regional consultations were held in Katherine (Northern Territory) and Wagga Wagga (New South Wales) with a broad representation of individuals, health professionals, union delegates and employers within the local community.
  • Paid maternity leave - employer and union groups. Consultations were held in each of the capital cities with a wide range of employer representative and union groups. Meetings were also held with the Australian Council of Trade Unions President and eight public consultations and 18 meetings were held with individual employer groups.
  • Paid maternity leave - womens' and community groups. Consultations were held in each capital city with the assistance of the Women's Electoral Lobby, Business and Professional Women and the YWCA in various states and territories.
  • Sexual harassment. Two meetings were held with the Australian Defence Force in relation to the Force's sexual harassment policy and management of sexual harassment issues.
  • Pregnancy guidelines. Consultations were held with the Australian Sports Commission on their national pregnancy guidelines, released in May 2002.

International visitors to the Commission

During 2001-02, the Public Affairs section coordinated a number of requests from international human rights groups or individuals to visit the Commission.

Delegations who visited the Commission included:

  • Public Participation Committee of the Thai Senate
  • Several Australian Ambassadors in the Asia Pacific region
  • Delegation from Kangwon provincial government in the Republic of Korea
  • Officers from the Office of Equality Investigations in the Republic of Ireland
  • Two Vietnamese Government delegations
  • United Kingdom National Office
  • Korean Human Rights Ambassador
  • Two Indonesian human rights delegations
  • Delegations from the Chinese Ministry of Justice and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Study tour by members of the Korean Human Right Commission.

The President, Commissions and senior staff from the Commission made presentations to the delegations about the Commission, its legislation, structure and work. All delegation members were provided with a set of materials about the Commission and its role at both a domestic and international level.