Thursday, 10 December 2009

Human rights lawyers win recognition at annual awards

The winner of the prestigious Human Rights Medal for 2009 has been announced today as Stephen Keim SC. 

The Medal, awarded by the Australian Human Rights Commission, is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in Australia.

Commission President, Cathy Branson QC said Mr Keim, from Brisbane, Queensland, was a strong advocate for human rights who had always contributed with humility and determination.

Federal Attorney-General, the Hon. Robert McClelland presented the Medal to Mr Keim.

“We had strong nominations in every category and I would like to acknowledge the extraordinary number of Australians who work every day in some way to protect the human rights of each and every one of us,” President Branson said.

Ms Branson said Stephen had been active in a number of cases throughout his life aimed at furthering the human rights of prisoners, refugees, people with disabilities and people experiencing discrimination – work he often undertook on a pro-bono basis.

“Stephen’s efforts throughout his life have been both bold and brave, with one high profile instance being his assiduous efforts undertaken at personal cost in 2007 when he represented Dr Haneef,” Ms Branson said. “Stephen had showed real courage in how he handled himself during the ensuing controversy and his advocacy led to the release and eventual clearance of Dr Haneef.”

Also recognised at the annual Human Rights Medals and Awards ceremony was Gregory McIntyre SC who won the Law Award category.

Ms Branson said the judges had chosen Mr McIntyre, from Adelaide Terrace, Western Australia, in recognition of his long career promoting and advancing human rights.

“Gregory has advanced human rights through the practice of law since his first job as a solicitor with the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia,” Ms Branson said.

“He has been involved in a number of leading and high profile human rights cases including Koowarta v Bjelke Petersen, concernging the Racial Discrimination Act, and a series of other cases, including Bropho v WA and Tickner v Bropho, concerning the protection of Aboriginal heritage,” Ms Branson said.

“In May 1982, he issued the High Court writ in Mabo v Queensland, retaining conduct of the case for 10 years, including the conduct of Mabo (No 1). He ultimately appeared as Counsel for Eddie Mabo in Mabo (No 2) in which the High Court ruled that the Meriam people had native title. He has also recently provided advice to Cape York Land Council, the Wik people and others on Cape York who were affected by the Archer River basin and other areas in Cape York being declared as wild river areas.”

Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Resource Centre was also awarded the Highly Commended certificate in this category. The judges said it was an organisation which consistently demonstrated an unreserved commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights in Australia.

Media contact: Louise McDermott 0419 258 597

2009 Human Rights Awards sponsers