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2008 Media Release: Bonanza field of human rights advocates leads to hotly contested awards

Commission Commission – General

10 December 2008

Bonanza field of human rights advocates leads to hotly contested awards

The prestigious 2008 Human Rights Medal has been awarded to formidable international and domestic Indigenous advocate, Les Malezer.

Mr Malezer was presented with his Medal by federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland at the Australian Human Rights Commission’s annual Human Rights Medals and Awards Ceremony in Sydney today.

Commission President, Catherine Branson QC, said deciding on the Medal winner from a quality field of human rights advocates was a difficult but inspiring task.

“We received nominations from around Australia from people committed to a fair go for all, who worked to overcome inequality,” Ms Branson said.

“This is something of which we can all be proud – especially today as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the International Declaration of Human Rights.

“Les’ efforts stood out for his sheer capacity to overcome seemingly insurmountable barriers in improving access to justice and human rights for Indigenous peoples worldwide.”

Mr McClelland also presented the Highly Commended certificate for the Human Rights Medal to the Director of the University of Technology, Sydney, Anti Slavery Project and law lecturer, Jennifer Burn.

The Young People’s Human Rights Medal was awarded for the first time this year to University of Queensland medical student, Alan Huynh, for his tireless work in multicultural community development, youth engagement and global health issues. A Highly Commended certificate was presented to Alan Wu.

Awards were also presented in following categories:

Law Award (sponsored by the Law Council of Australia)
Awarded to Bill Mitchell, principal solicitor of Townsville Community Legal Centre, to recognise his work in the promotion and advancement of human rights through the practice of law.

Community Award - Individual
Awarded to Sharon Boyce from Toowoomba, Qld.
This award recognises Sharon’s remarkable efforts in developing a mobile disability and diversity awareness program which travels to regional and rural communities educating people about difference.

Community Award – Organisation
Awarded to the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS) of West End, Qld.
This award recognises the efforts of this independent not-for-profit organisation specialising in refugee and migration law.

A Highly Commended certificate was also presented in this category to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, (PFLAG) Brisbane Inc.

Literature Non-Fiction Award
Awarded to Linda Briskman, Susie Latham and Chris Goddard for
Human Rights Overboard: Seeking asylum in Australia.
This award recognises this clearly and comprehensively presented book covering Australia’s immigration detention regime and refugee policy.

Radio Award
Awarded to Damien Carrick and Anita Barraud, The Law Report, ABC Radio National.
This award recognises this special three-part series which provided a comprehensive picture of the real life impact of the Northern Territory Intervention.

A Highly Commended certificate was also presented in this category to Ann Arnold, Hindsight, ABC Radio National, for Exposed to moral danger: the story of the Hay Institution for Girls.

Television Award
Awarded to Quentin McDermott, Steve Taylor and Stephen Skinner, for In My Shoes, ABC TV, Four Corners.
This award recognises this highly emotive piece which delved into the often difficult and desperate world of family carers.

A Highly Commended certificate was also presented in this category to Sonya Pemberton, Andrew Denton and Anita Jacoby for Angels and Demons, Enough Rope with Andrew Denton.

Print Media Award
Awarded to Kirstie Parker, Editor of the Koori Mail, for the National Apology: commemorative lift out.
This awardrecognises this enduring record of a momentous event in an edition full of images, text of speeches and colourful quotes.

A Highly Commended certificate was also presented in this category to Joel Gibson, Sydney Morning Heraldfor Funeral Funds: door to door death.

The winners of the Human Rights Photography Competition were also announced on the day. The winner of the open category was Belinda Mason from North Sydney. The Under 18 male and female categories were won by Luke Urquhart from Nambucca Heads and Ashley Evans from Doncaster in Victoria. The photos can be found online at:

“These awardees are truly an inspiration and motivation for us all in building the sort of Australia we want to live in – where respect for the individual is recognised as precious and where everyone is valued – whether they are male or female, young or old, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, whatever their faith and whether or not they have a disability,” Ms Branson said.

“We congratulate each winner, highly commended and shortlisted recipient at the 2008 awards along with the efforts of all Australians to overcome social injustice, inequality and discrimination.”

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