Thursday 12 December 2013


Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 2013 Human Rights Awards.

You've come from all over Australia, small towns, rural communities, big cities, some of you are from Legal Aid groups or commercial lawyers, judges, members of religious bodies, university faculty, government departments and not-for-profit organisations.

Some of you are artists, musicians and writers, others advocates and activists. And on behalf of all my colleagues at the Commission we salute you and acknowledge your vital, practical role in ensuring that Australia is a country that lives up to the aspirations of the human rights treaties that we have signed on the international stage.

And the winner of the Literature (Non-Fiction) Award is Ranjana Srivastava for _Dying for a chat_ for the Penguin group.

I would really like to dedicate this award to the patients I see every day who inspire me to write. Dying for a chat, which I am sure most of you haven't read (laughter) - it's a book about limiting futile care in an ageing society I think it's incredibly important that we begin to think not just about living well, but also dying well.

I'm hear to present the Radio Award which is given to an outstanding news or current affairs program that has promoted human rights.

And the winner is ... Carol Dowling, 'The state of our children's hearing', Noongar Radio Perth.

I went on this journey as a mum, so thank you so much. (applause).

And now the Print and Online finalists.

And the winner is ... I am skipping the envelope (laughter) ... the winner is Debra Jopson - The Global Mail, for Rock Art at Risk.

Rock Art is largely unprotected. Why must it be a poor cousin, when it is so rich and so important.

I'm going to name the nominees for the Business Award.

And the winner is... Freedom Housing.

I'd like to dedicate this award to my late wife, Pamela.

Pamela suffered MS for 30 years and she passed away early last year. Pamela wanted to stay with her family, she didn't want to go to a group accomodation facility.

And her children wanted her to stay at home. And I would like to think that future 'Pamelas' can stay at home with their children. With Freedom Housing.

Now I know there was some criticism in one of the papers that this was a bit of a swish event, but I do want to show you that the Human Rights Commission  has been saving lots of money, as you can see here the Award, and if you can see that, this was just a local tennis club stuffed up and the award didn't quite work, didn't get it straight, so we got them for free, so (laughs) lots of savings here tonight. Doesn't take away in any way - we scratched out the winner of the Under-12s semi-finals and have beautifully written it on in texta.

So that's ... lovely.

And the winner of the tennis club award - oh! Sorry no, the Television Award - yeah that's right, goes to Naomi Chainey, Elvira Alic, Phineas Meere for 'No Limits'.

I was saying before we got here that if we had any chance of winning this it would be because the Commission would value people with disabilities representing themselves - we are a program that is produced by people with disabilities, hosted by people with disabilities and most of the crew - camera people, the director, everybody is people with disabilities.

Thanks everyone, I'm really glad that we won this 'tennis' award, it's really good!

No - I'm a bit disappointed that it's not a meat tray, but what are you going to do? (laughs).

No - thanks for - I think it's really important that we really do value the representation of people with a disability. And I guess this award proves that. So thanks very much.

I'm delighted now to announce the winner of the Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Community Individual Award - it's awarded to a person with a track record of promoting and advancing human rights in the Australian community on a not-for-profit basis.

And the winner is ... Carolyn Frohmader.

Obviously I'm very humbled to receive this award, in recognition of my work with and for women and girls with disabilities.

It's my great pleasure to be here this evening to present the Human Rights Young People's Medal.

The winner is Mariah Kennedy.

So 'Reaching Out' was this book that I started when I was 14 years old - I wrote to all these authors and illustrators around Australia that had really influenced me growing up with the hope that they would contribute a short story or illustration or poem which was based around the concept of humanising someone caught in the midst of a social injustice.

The Community Organisation Award winner is the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence!

The concept of Indigenous Excellence is far from new. It's in fact one of the oldest operating concepts on the planet.

The Law Award winner is Professor Andrea Durbach.

It's with enormous, enormous appreciation for those institutions like the Australian Human Rights Commission and the hope that they be allowed to do the extraordinary work that they do through the practice of law that I accept this award. Thank you very much.

We now move onto the final award of the evening, the 2013 Human Rights Medal and I'd like to welcome to the stage the winner of last year's Medal, who was sadly not able to join us here last year, please welcome Ian Thorpe!

I'm glad you didn't take your foot off the gas after winning the award, well done.

So to announce the next award.

So, the Human Rights Medal winner is Sister Claire Condon.

I feel very humbled and inadequate on receiving  this award. But on reflection I do so, on behalf of all my Sisters of the Good Samaritan who have served human rights in Australia for 156 years. Thank you very much.