Skip to main content

Social Justice Report 2007 - Acknowledgements

Back to Contents


The position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner was established within the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission in 1993 to carry out the following functions:

  1. Report annually on the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders, and recommend where necessary on the action that should be taken to ensure these rights are observed.
  2. Promote awareness and discussion of human rights in relation to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.
  3. Undertake research and educational programs for the purposes of promoting respect for, and enjoyment and exercise of, human rights by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.
  4. Examine and report on enactments and proposed enactments to ascertain whether or not they recognise and protect the human rights of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

The Commissioner is also required, under Section 209 of the Native Title Act 1993, to report annually on the operation of the Native Title Act and its effect on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights
by Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders.

For information on the work of the Social Justice Commissioner please visit the HREOC website at:

The Social Justice Commissioner can be contacted at the following address:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner

Level 8, Piccadilly Tower, 133 Castlereagh Street
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 1042

Telephone: (02) 9284 9600
Facsimile: (02) 9284 9715

Recent publications of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission


  • Summary of Observations following the Inspection of Mainland Immigration Detention Facilities 2007 (2008) (Human Rights Commissioner)
  • Us Taken-Away Kids ( 2007)
  • Human Rights 21: 21years of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2007)
  • Annual Report 2006-2007 (2007)
  • What’s the Score? A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport (2007)
    (Race Discrimination Commissioner)
  • Indigenous Peoples: Issues in International and Australian Law (2007) (Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner)
  • HREOCA No. 37 – Report of an inquiry into Dr Julie Copeman’s complaint that Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service terminated her employment on the basis of her trade union activity (2007) PDF
  • Unlocking Doors Report (2007) (Race Discrimination Commissioner)
  • Multiculturalism Paper (2007) (Race Discrimination Commissioner)
  • Same-Sex: Same Entitlements Final Report (2007) (Disability and Human Rights Commissioners)
  • Social Justice Report (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner) 2007
  • Native Title Report (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner) 2007
  • It’s About Time: Women, men, work and family – Discussion Paper (2007) (Sex Discrimination Commissioner)

General Information/Brochures

  • Bringing them home: Education Module (2007)
  • Face the Facts: Teaching Resources for use in Australian Classrooms (2007 update)
  • Voices of Australia: Education Module (2007)
  • Youth Challenge – Teaching Human Rights and Responsibilities (2007)
  • Celebrate Human Rights Day – Dec 10 (2007 update)
  • Track the history – poster for ‘Bringing them home’ anniversary (2007)
  • ‘Speak up’ and ‘We listen’ – postcards

Please forward requests for publications to:
Publications Officer, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 1042. Email: Phone: (02) 9284 9672 Toll Free: 1300 369 711 Fax: (02) 9284 9611

For detailed and up to date information about HREOC visit our website at:
The HREOC website contains submissions and transcripts of current HREOC inquiries; publications; speeches; a complaints help page; information for school children; an internet guide to human rights and information about HREOC Commissioners.

Restoring Life and Spirit: recovery from trauma

Note by the artist, Helen Milroy

We are part of the dreaming. We have been in the dreaming for a long time before we are born on this earth and we will return to this vast landscape at the end of our days. It provides for us during our time on earth, a place to heal, to restore purpose and hope, and continue our destiny.

Our country and people have suffered many traumas since colonisation, the magnitude of which is beyond words. Looking through trauma is like being trapped in the back of a mirror, there is no reflection of self. It is like being trapped in darkness, unable to see where to go or what is there, surrounded by ‘not knowing’, paralysed by fear.

When we are wounded, our story is disrupted and life becomes fragmented. We may not be able to find our way forward and may start to see life through warped mirrors. We have to understand that trauma is only a part of our story and our story is part of a much greater story that has a different beginning, is enduring and will continue well beyond our lifetime.

To have integrity of existence we need to have an integrated experience throughout so that we do not isolate pockets of our life, disconnected from present reality, and so that we do not live in two worlds but can maintain an essence of continuity throughout our existence on this earth. We cannot play parts without understanding the whole story of Australia.

Part of the problem in healing is being able to put all the parts together again as there are still too many of us missing. To survive as peoples distinct in culture, we have to restore the collective. The individual may not be able to carry the survival of the culture into eternity but the collective can.

We can return to the dreaming to heal, to rest for a while and have our spirit restored, to find our place on the serpent and recover our purpose in this life. We have to trust that we will be cared for until we can walk again, taking sustenance from the tree of life that has sustained us over generations. Our ancestors watch and wait patiently for our return. They are like the clouds that roll through the sky coming to greet us and shed tears for our wounds, holding us within a teardrop, soothed and bathed in this healing water.

Then a new day will dawn and our ancestral guides will once again set us on our journey through life. To recover, we have to allow the sun to shed light and warmth on dark places and assist our wounds to heal. We have to shatter these warped mirrors and find our true reflection of self, spirit and country. We have to stand together, united and proud.

We may not always have control over what happens to us in life, but we do have control over truth. The ultimate control we have is the coherence and continuity of our own story.

To live without spirit is to sleep without dreams and wake to oblivion.