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Free and Equal Conference

Rights Rights and Freedoms
children at the sunset

It is time for us to talk about the Australia that we want to live in, and how we want our rights and freedoms protected. There are great opportunities ahead for human rights protection in Australia, but also great challenges. How do we balance competing rights in a complex legal landscape? How do we keep improving protections for vulnerable Australians? How do we find common ground on human rights in a diverse Australia? 

The Free and Equal conference is the centrepiece of a national conversation and once-in-a-decade event. It will take stock of themes emerging from Australian voices and allow us to hear from human rights experts, industry and community leaders on how we can advance human rights into the 21st Century.

The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sydney on Tuesday October 8.  

Take action

This conference is the centrepiece of our major project for 2019-2020 where we aim to host an Australian conversation on human rights. We invite you to take part in this national conversation and have your say on the Australia that you want to live in. Purchase your ticket now to take part in the conference and hear from experts on themes emerging from Australian voices.

It is your last change to take part in the submissions process – which closes on 30 August 2019. Provide a written submission and let us know what human rights matter to you and how respect for human rights can improve your life and make our communities stronger.


Dr Michelle Bachelet

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Michelle Bachelet
In September 2018 Michelle Bachelet assumed her functions as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ms Bachelet was twice elected President of Chile and was the first female in that office. She also served as Health Minister as well as Latin America’s first female Defence Minister. She has worked closely with many international organizations, and in 2011 she was named the first Director of UN Women.

Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM

President of the Australian Human Rights Commission

Professor Rosalind Croucher
Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM is President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Rosalind commenced her seven-year term as Commission President on 30 July 2017. Prior to joining the Commission, Rosalind was President of the Australian Law Reform Commission (2009–2017) and Commissioner (2006–2009), where she led a number of significant law reform inquiries, including on Client Legal Privilege, Secrecy Laws, Family Violence, Discovery, Age Barriers to Work, Disability Laws, Encroachment on Freedoms in Commonwealth Laws and Elder Abuse. As President she also oversaw inquiries such as Native Title, Copyright and Serious Invasions of Privacy.

Professor George Williams AO

Dean of UNSW Law

Professor George Williams
George Williams AO is Dean at UNSW Law. He has written and edited 36 books on human rights and constitutional law, and has appeared as a barrister in the High Court in many human rights cases. He chaired the inquiry that brought about the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities and is a columnist for The Australian.

Brooke Boney

Reporter, TODAY Show

Brooke Boney
Brooke Boney is one of the emerging stars on Australian television. She earned her big break on national youth radio station Triple J as the news presenter for Ben and Liam’s breakfast show. In January she was announced as the Today Show’s new entertainment reporter. Embracing her Indigenous culture, Boney is igniting discussion around indigenous affairs across the country.

Professor Mick Dodson

Northern Territory Treaty Commissioner

Professor Mick Dodson
Professor Mick Dodson AM is a member of the Yawuru peoples – the traditional owners of the southern Kimberley region of Western Australia. Born in Katherine in the Northern Territory and educated in Katherine, Darwin and Victoria, Prof. Dodson was named Australian of the year in 2009 and recently took up a 3 year appointment as the Northern Territory Treaty Commissioner.

Craig Foster

Former Socceroo, Broadcaster, Sport and Human Rights Advocate

Craig Foster
Craig Foster is a former Socceroo captain and is one of the most respected broadcasters, commentators and contributors in the history of the game in Australia. Craig is a refugee and human rights ambassador with Amnesty, sits on the Australia Committee for Human Rights Watch, Advisory Board of the Australian Institute of Human Rights, UNSW and the Australian Multicultural Council, Federal Government.

Nyadol Nyuon

Award winning human rights advocate and lawyer

Nyadol Nyuon
Nyadol arrived as a refugee in 2005. She is a lawyer, community advocate, media commentator and writer. In 2018 Nyadol received the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Racism. It Stops With Me Award, the Harmony Alliance Award for significant contribution to empowering migrant and refugee women, and co-won the Tim McCoy Prize for her advocacy on behalf of the South Sudanese Community.

Sam Mostyn

Non-Executive Director and Sustainability Advisor

Sam Mostyn
Sam Mostyn has a diverse career spanning business, sport, sustainability & inclusion, government, international development, the arts and philanthropy. Trained as a lawyer, she worked for Justice Michael Kirby, and was an adviser to the former PM Paul Keating. During her career, Sam has worked to bring greater collaboration across sectors, incorporating sustainability principles into business, and advocating strong stewardship of organisations & institutions. She currently serves as a Chair and Non-Executive Director across a number of corporate and NFP organisations.

Cathy McGowan AO

Former Independent MP, women’s rights advocate and community worker

Cathy McGowan
Elected as first woman Independent MP to Federal Parliament, in 2018, Cathy is a community worker, activist and advocate for women's rights, particularly in rural and regional Australia. She was national president of Australian Women in Agriculture and a partner in the establishment of the largest agricultural organisation in PNG - PNG Women in Agricultural Foundation. In 2019, she was the lead in tabling a private members bill to establish a National Integrity Commission.

The Hon Catherine Branson AC QC

Chair of the Board of the Human Rights Law Centre and Deputy Chancellor of The University of Adelaide

Catherine Branson
Catherine Branson is Chair of the Board of the Human Rights Law Centre and Deputy Chancellor of The University of Adelaide. During her career she has practiced as a solicitor and barrister and held the positions of President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Commissioner, Crown Solicitor of South Australia and CEO of the Attorney-General’s Department (SA).

The Hon Susan Ryan AO

Former Age Discrimination and Disability Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission and freelance advocate for the rights of older people

Susan Ryan
Finishing her terms as Age Discrimination and Disability Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission in July 2016, Susan Ryan has since become a freelance advocate for the rights of older people. During her career she has held positions in the superannuation industry and was the first woman to hold a cabinet post in a federal Labor Government.

Eliza Hull

ABC Producer, Access and Inclusion Coordinator Arena Theatre

Eliza Hull
Eliza Hull is a disability advocate, and producer of the ABC series 'We've Got This’ about parenting with a disability. Recently Eliza produced a Radio National series on disability & relationships, and is currently producing an ABCME TV episode, about a child with achondroplasia. Eliza is the Access and Inclusion Coordinator at Arena Theatre, and is a proud disabled woman.

Marlee Silva

Founder of Tiddas 4 Tiddas

Marlee Silva
Marlee Silva is a 24 year old Kamilaroi and Dunghutti woman from Sydney. She’s a specialist Indigenous consultant for Cox Inall Ridgeway, a writer and the founder and of Tiddas 4 Tiddas, a social media and podcast based empowerment network dedicated to celebrating Indigenous women and girls.

Aisheeya Huq

Media Spokesperson, School Strike 4 Climate Action

Aisheeya Huq
Aisheeya is a 16-year-old student striving to unite the political divide on climate action in Australia. She is an avid advocate for women, people of colour, Muslims and youth empowerment. As a media spokesperson for School Strike 4 Climate Action, she has represented the movement both nationally and internationally while lobbying for societal and legislative change in Australian communities.

Emily Dash

Artist and advocate

Emily Dash
Emily Dash is an actor, writer, speaker, producer and disability advocate. Through her work in theatre and screen, she places an emphasis on social justice and expanding perceptions of disability. Selected works include her films “I Am Not A Work of Art” (2015) and “The Cards I’m Dealt” (2016), and her debut independent play “Freefall” (premiere August 2019).

Frank Hooper

CEO of Keep Talking NT

Frank Hooper
Franklin Hooper is a 19-year-old university student at ANU, UNICEF Young Ambassador, CEO of Keep Talking and LGBTQIA+ activist. Franklin grew up in Katherine in the Northern Territory and started Keep Talking there when he was 17 to provide support to other young LGBTQIA+ people living in the Katherine region. Since then he has campaigned for the rights of LGBTQIA+ young people around Australia







Partitions, roadblocks, and glass ceilings

Topiv one
What human rights walls still need to be torn down in 2019?

What’s next for Indigenous rights in the 21st Century?

Topic two

The accessibility of human rights

Topic three
  • Can we access the protections we have in practice?
  • And what do we need to do to make sure everyone can?

Australia’s international human rights obligations and our role in the region.

Topic four
What’s our international human rights image, and how should we change it?

The future of human rights in Australia

Topic five
The way forward, and the human rights landscape the next generations will need in a changed world.