Wednesday 3 August 2011

Race Discrimination Commissioner appointed - Dr Helen Szoke


Race Discrimination Commissioner appointed

The Federal government has appointed Dr Helen Szoke as Australia’s full-time Race Discrimination Commissioner.

Dr Szoke will start with the Commission on Monday  5 September 2011.

Announcing her appointment, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said,“For the first time in 13 years, Australia will have now have a standalone Race Discrimination Commissioner."

The establishment of full-time Disability and Race Discrimination Commissioners in the Australian Human Rights Commission separates these roles for the first time since 1997. 

Graeme Innes AM is currently the Commissioner responsible for Race Discrimination.

He has filled this position since 2009, in addition to his role as Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

As Race Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Szoke will be tasked with tackling racism and promoting greater understanding between people of different cultures and backgrounds.

“I know from my time as a State Human Rights Commissioner that equal opportunity and multiculturalism are things that we need to continue to work on and develop - it needs vigilance and continued effort to ensure that misinformation is addressed and misconceptions are challenged.” Dr Szoke said.

Helen Szoke was previously the Commissioner with the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and worked with the Commission from 2004 until August 2011. 

During this time, she has been Co-Chair of the Management Committee of Play by the Rules. A unique partnership between the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australian Sports Commission and various other agencies, Play by the Rules is a website which provides information and online learning for community sport and recreation on how to prevent and deal with discrimination, harassment and child abuse for the sport and recreation industry.

Some of the milestones that have marked Dr Szoke’s time as Commissioner in Victoria, are the introduction of the charter of human rights as well as the Equal Opportunity Act 2010.

**Outgoing Race Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes will speak on the subject - I’m not racist, but…: zero tolerance or zero acknowledgement? at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday 9th August 2011.