18 July 2005

Tribute to Sir Ronald Wilson

The President, Commissioners and staff of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission today expressed their great sorrow at the death of the former President of the Commission Sir Ronald Wilson, AC KBE CMG QC.

Sir Ron was President of the Commission from 1990 to 1997. He gained the respect, admiration and love of the Commission’s staff for his humility, dignity, integrity and fine intellect. His leadership had a profound and enduring influence on the Commission.

Sir Ron became known as a tireless and passionate campaigner for human rights, conducting with Mick Dodson the landmark Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, resulting in the 1997 ‘Bringing them Home’ report. The report told the stories of Indigenous Australians whose lives had been deeply affected by child-separation policies. While providing a comprehensive and compelling history, its recommendations were forward-looking and directed at healing and reconciliation for all Australians. Sir Ron continued to travel the country following the release of the report to support Indigenous people who had told their story to the Inquiry and campaign for reconciliation.

The current President of the Commission, John von Doussa QC, said the Stolen Children’s report will be one of Sir Ron’s greatest legacies and will continue to be the subject of public debate about how this sorry part of our history will impact on Indigenous people for a long time in the future.

During his term as President, Sir Ron also decided countless complaints of unlawful discrimination under the Commission’s former tribunal regime. He is remembered not only for the fairness and respect he showed parties, but also the clarity of his decision-making. His decisions made an important contribution to the developing jurisprudence in the field of discrimination law and his reasoning continues to be cited with approval in federal courts.

Sir Ron will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.

The Commission extends its sympathy to his wife Lady Wilson and their children.

Media inquiries: Paul Oliver (02) 9284 9880 or 0408 469 347


Last updated 18 July 2005.