Date: 
Friday 10 December 2010

A lifetime of dedication to helping people reach their full potential has delivered the prestigious Human Rights Medal for 2010 to Thérèse Rein.

Already well known for her high profile advocacy and patronage of major social causes in Australia, Ms Rein was announced today as the winner of Australia’s major human rights accolade at the Australian Human Rights Commission’s annual Human Rights Medals and Awards ceremony in Sydney.

Commission President Catherine Branson QC, said the judges selected Ms Rein for her long-term dedication to human rights, especially the rights of people with disability.

“Thérèse Rein has demonstrated throughout her career, a strong and enduring commitment to ensuring that people, especially those who experience disability and disadvantage, are given the opportunity to realise their full potential,” Ms Branson said.

“In her capacity as wife of the former Prime Minister, she was deeply and genuinely committed to a wide range of issues including homelessness, Indigenous literacy, child health and disability.

“In particular, her support and commitment to improving the design of housing for all Australians, including people with disability stand out. Her role in supporting and encouraging the National Dialogue on Universal Housing Design culminated in the coming together of Australia’s leading residential and building industry players to pursue a universal housing design standard by 2020.”

Thérèse Rein’s passion and commitment to eliminating discrimination and helping people reach their potential was inspired by the experiences of her father who lost the use of his legs after a flying accident in World War Two.

Ms Rein established Work Directions Australia in 1989 to assist people with disability, illness or injury to return to meaningful employment. The organisation soon expanded into providing individually-tailored services and support to assist unemployed people to get back to work.

In 2002, it became Ingeus and partnered with governments in United Kingdom, France, Germany, Sweden, South Korea and Switzerland providing back-to-work, health and well-being services to the long-term unemployed, people with disability, people with health conditions, young people, mature age workers, migrants and refugees.

“She put a strong human rights framework around the work she undertook, embracing the privilege of the role of wife of the Prime Minister and using it to highlight a range of important social causes,” Ms Branson said.

Ms Rein is currently in London on business but in a video address to the audience, she said the medal belonged to those in the community who have a disability, those people who love them, and those people they love.

“It’s tough having a disability. It makes life more complicated. It makes life more challenging - not just for the person with a disability but for their families and those who care for them,” she said.

“This medal belongs to those people who, because of their disability, have faced prejudice and assumptions from other people about what they can and cannot do.”

Also recognised in today’s ceremony was 25 year-old Jack Manning Bancroft who was awarded the Human Rights Young People’s Medal for his efforts in improving opportunities for young Indigenous Australians.

“At the age of 19, Jack was already planning to start a mentoring program for Indigenous high school kids to help them through school and university,” Ms Branson said.

“Jack established the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience while still at university by recruiting 25 Indigenous and non-Indigenous university mentors from Sydney University to partner one-on-one with 25 local school students.

“Following extensive research, he developed the AIME model to enhance skills and knowledge and build confidence and belief in success.

AIME has been operating now for six years, and provides mentoring to approximately 1000 Indigenous students from High Schools across three states.

“Jack’s contribution to protecting and promoting human rights was a stand out from a truly inspirational group of young people,” Ms Branson said.

The 2010 Human Rights Medal was sponsored by Rio Tinto. The Young People’s Human Rights Medal was sponsored by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Awards were also presented in the following categories.

Law Award (sponsored by The Law Council of Australia)

Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency: Since early 2006, NAAJA has been providing high quality, culturally appropriate legal aid services to Aboriginal people in the Top End of the Northern Territory.

Community (Organisation) Award

GetUp!: A national independent, grassroots community advocacy organisation that gives everyday Australians opportunities to get involved in holding politicians to account on important issues has won the Community (Organisation) Award.

A Highly Commended certificate was also awarded in this category to the Immigrant Women’s Support Service. This Brisbane based community organisation provides free, confidential support and assistance to women and their children from non-English speaking backgrounds who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.

Community (Individual) Award (sponsored by iHR Australia)

Nina Funnell: In 2007, Nina Funnell was violently attacked and indecently sexually assaulted while returning to her Sydney home. Since then, Ms Funnell, from Huntleys Point, has become a public advocate in Australia and abroad.

Print Media Award (sponsored by Vibe Australia)

The Grass is Always Greener... by Chris Graham, National Indigenous Times
(18 March 2010): This article focuses on the Ampilatwatja people of Central Australia and the impact on them of the Northern Territory intervention.

A Highly Commended certificate was also awarded in this category to Victorian based Stephen Lunn, from The Australian newspaper for his National Disability Insurance Scheme series.

Literature (non-fiction) Award (sponsored by The Co-op Bookshop)

“It’s Still in My Heart, This is My Country” by John Host with Chris Owen from Crawley in WA: Written as expert evidence in the Western Australian native title case known as the Single Noongar
Claim, this book exposes the survival of the Noongar people and their traditions, laws and customs.

A Highly Commended certificate was also awarded in this category to Sandy Jeffs from Christmas Hills in Victoria for Flying with Paper Wings: Reflections on Living with Madness. This
autobiography offers privileged insights into schizophrenia, as well as disturbing reflections on its causes and its care.

Radio Award

The Too Hard Basket: ABC Radio National’s ‘360 documentaries’ (12 December 2009):
Explores the often taboo subject of disability and sexuality through the eyes of John Blades, who has Multiple Sclerosis.

A Highly Commended certificate was also awarded in the Radio category to Sydney-based Lorena Allan and Mark Don for No Ordinary Piece of Bush – The High Price of Coronation Hill, broadcast on ABC Radio National’s ‘Hindsight’ (4 April 2010): This program explored the battle over mining at Coronation Hill in the Northern Territory in the 1980s.

Television Award (sponsored by Avant Card)

Football United: Passport to Hope – North One Television Australia for Foxtel’s Bio Channel (Screened 23 & 30 September 2010): Dan Goldberg, Adam Kay, Thierry Bled, Scott Barnett and Lucas Sudbury. This program tells the story of Anne Bunde-Birouste’s passionate work to form a team of young Australian refugee kids from countries such as Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Jordan and Sudan to represent Australia at the World Cup in South Africa.

Up to the minute information on human rights is now available on twitter at twitter.com/AusHumanRights

Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597.