After five years, Professor Gillian Triggs is this week stepping down as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The Commission warmly thanks Professor Triggs for her service. She recently reflected on the highlights of her Presidency:
I have seen the best that Australia can be at an aged care home for Aboriginal stockmen, a three hour drive out of Katherine on a long dusty red road.
I have also seen the dark side of our nation visiting Christmas Island three times and Immigration detention centres in Villawood, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin, and Brisbane and most recently in Yongah Hill in WA - places of despair tempered by a hope for a better life.
I have worked on human rights issues in China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Laos and with Indonesia on the death penalty and had the privilege of working with the United Nations human rights bodies.
I joined the Mardi Gras covered in sparkly blue paint to support marriage equality and visited women’s refuges.
On one memorable day I went on a ‘walk about’ in Batemans Bay to visit small business where I terrified local shop keepers who wanted to know why I was there and what they had done wrong! I assured them I was there to help.
It is vital that each of us should stand up and speak out for our fundamental rights in our successful multicultural community. We should resist laws that give Ministers non-reviewable discretion to overturn decisions of our tribunals or to cancel visas; we must support the institutions of democracy, especially the courts and our judges and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. We should reject indefinite detention without trial, and the enactment of disproportionate counter terrorism and secrecy laws that restrict freedom of movement and speech; we must stand against racism in all its forms and support freedom of religious expression.
May I conclude by saying what a special honour it has been to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I have learned to understand a little of the wisdom and spirituality that our Indigenous peoples bring to Australia. I hope that as the public debate about constitutional recognition continues over the coming months, even years, that we are open to understanding the special place Indigenous peoples have in our nation and in our hearts.
From Monday, July 31st, Professor Rosalind Croucher will be taking on the role of President. Professor Croucher will bring decades of legal experience to the role, including eight years as the President of the Australian Law Reform Commission.