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Annual Report 1999-2000: Human Rights

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to 1999 - 2000 Annual Report Contents

Annual Report 1999 - 2000

Chris Sidoti, Human Rights CommissionerHuman
Rights

Human Rights Commissioner

Chris Sidoti took
up his appointment as Human Rights Commissioner in 1995. His five year
term expires on 13 August 2000.

The Human Rights
Commissioner's functions include

  • promotion
    of public understanding, acceptance and discussion of human rights

  • investigation
    and conciliation of complaints of discrimination in employment and
    of human rights violations by or on behalf of the Commonwealth

  • reporting to
    the Attorney-General and Parliament on human rights complaints which
    could not be conciliated

  • advising the
    Attorney-General and Parliament on action needed to ensure Australia's
    compliance with its human rights and non-discrimination undertakings,
    including through legislative amendment

  • preparation
    of guidelines for the avoidance of human rights breaches.

The Commission's
human rights responsibilities flow from

  • the International
    Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

  • the Convention
    on the Rights of the Child

  • the Declaration
    on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination
    Based on Religion or Belief

  • the Declaration
    of the Rights of the Child

  • the Declaration
    on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons

  • the Declaration
    on the Rights of Disabled Persons.

Its employment discrimination
responsibilities are based on the ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation)
Convention (ILO 111).

Education and promotion

Human rights in rural and
remote Australia

The experience of
people in rural and remote Australia has always featured prominently in
the Commission's work. During the reporting year the Commission undertook
two major projects addressing the human rights of children and young people
in rural and remote Australia.

Rural and Remote Education
Inquiry

The Commission's
National Inquiry into Rural and Remote Education commenced in February
1999 in response to the Human Rights Commissioner's Bush Talks consultations
(http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/rural/bushtalks)
which identified education as a serious concern in rural Australia. Every
child has the right to education (CROC article 28) without discrimination
including discrimination on the ground of race or disability (article
2). That education should be directed to the development of the child's
personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest
potential among other objectives (article 29).

The terms of reference
directed the Inquiry to examine the provision of education for children
in rural and remote Australia with reference to

  • the availability
    and accessibility of both primary and secondary schooling

  • the quality
    of educational services, including technological support services,
    and

  • whether the
    education available to children with disabilities, Indigenous children
    and children from diverse cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds
    complies with their human rights.

The Human Rights
Commissioner conducted this inquiry on behalf of the Commission. Six Co-Commissioners
were appointed to assist in their respective States and the Northern Territory.

Commissioner Sidoti with the sex Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Commissioners

Dr Alby W Jones,
South Australia, was South Australia's Director-General of Education
from 1970 until 1977.

Lady Pearl Logan,
Queensland, has been prominent in the Country Women's Association
and instrumental, among many other community activities, in the establishment
of James Cook University in Townsville.

Barbara Flick,
NSW, was the Director of the Commission's Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Social Justice Unit until late May 1999 and previously worked
for many years as Manager of the Western Aboriginal Legal Service,
NSW, among many other relevant appointments.

Associate Professor
Brian Devlin, NT, taught in rural and remote schools in the Top End
of the Northern Territory for 15 years and has been Dean of Education
at the Northern Territory University.

Sister Patricia
Rhatigan, WA, is Dean of the Broome Campus of Notre Dame University
and taught in rural and remote schools in the Kimberley for over 20
years.

Tim Roberts,
Victoria, is a senior secondary student living in Cohuna. He has been
a member of the Prime Minister's Youth Roundtable.

The Inquiry visited
28 rural and remote communities in each State and the Northern Territory,
taking evidence and holding discussions with students, teachers, administrators,
parents and other community members. It also took formal evidence in every
capital city and received 287 written submissions. A national survey was
conducted for the Inquiry by the Youth Research Centre at the University
of Melbourne to which there were 3,128 respondents, 55% of them rural
and remote area students.

The inquiry utilised,
in an exemplary way, a model of research, consultation and reporting
highly suitable for exploring the issues related to education in rural
and remote Australia. The mix of basic research and community consultations
resulted in authentic and powerful outcomes which should be invaluable
for rural communities, governments, and those professionals and scholars
concerned with sustaining and enriching life and culture in rural
Australia. With this timely Inquiry the Commission has demonstrated
national and international leadership in the concern for rural and
remote communities and rightly focussed on the role of schools in
communities

(Dr David McSwan,
Director, Rural Education Research and Development Centre, James Cook
University, Townsville Qld).

The Inquiry was committed
to ensuring that the views of students were heard and taken into account
in developing its recommendations. It was pleased that thousands of children
were able to express their views through the meetings in rural and remote
communities and the national survey.

A great deal of the
information provided to the Inquiry is published on the Commission's website,
including submissions supplied in electronic format, transcripts of evidence,
records of meetings, a bibliography commissioned from the Rural Education
Research and Development Centre at James Cook University, the Youth Research
Centre survey report and a series of briefing papers on aspects of the
terms of reference (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/rural/education).

School is lots
of fun. There are lots of activities. It's not just sport. School
is about education and education is power for me. And there are a
lot of things that I need to know about the whole world. When I leave
school I might go to a University in Darwin. I want to be a scientist.
I will find a school in Darwin before I go to University. In future
I hope to be President of the Land Council
(student
meeting at Nguiu NT).

It is the practice
in a number of areas that if the school receives a level of resources
that the school considers insufficient to support the child [with
a disablity], the family is asked to collect the child for example
at lunch time a number of days per week
(Family
Advocacy NSW submission).

The evidence and
submissions received by the Inquiry were summarised in Emerging Themes
published in March 2000 (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/rural/education/reports).
The Inquiry's report, Recommendations, was tabled in Federal Parliament
on 28 June 2000 and is also on the website. It presents a blueprint for
rural education in 73 detailed recommendations for ensuring that education
for all rural and remote children in Australia is available, accessible,
affordable, acceptable and adaptable, eliminating discrimination, enhancing
the participation of parents and other community members in education
decision-making and provision, improving the recruitment and working conditions
of teaching and support staff and improving the chances that rural and
remote students will succeed at school. The recommendations are addressed
to the full range of authorities responsible for the provision of school
education in Australia including State and Territory Education Departments,
Catholic Education Offices and other independent school authorities, the
Commonwealth's Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA)
and the national Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training
and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA).

The Inquiry will
launch three further publications on rural and remote education early
in 2000-01: a case study based evaluation of access to education in Australia,
a case study based description of models of parent and community participation
in school education and a kit for use in schools featuring the comments
made to the Inquiry by rural and remote students.

Chris Sidoti, Human Rights CommissionerOutlink
Network - Rural Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young People

Recent studies have
shown that young lesbian, gay and bisexual people in rural areas are a
severely disadvantaged group within Australian society. They experience
the stigma associated with homosexuality, the disempowerment common amongst
young people and the difficulties of contemporary rural life. Research
also shows that in the face of these difficulties they often receive less
than adequate support from families, schools, youth services and the broader
community. These factors combine to place lesbian, gay and bisexual young
people in rural areas at high risk of drug and alcohol abuse, conflict
with family and peers, early school leaving, homelessness and suicide.

The Commission, with
the support of the Australian Youth Foundation, initiated a network of
young lesbian, gay and bisexual people in rural areas and rural service
providers. These young people often experience a high level of isolation,
as do service providers concerned for their welfare. The Outlink Network
aims to bring these individuals and groups together to share knowledge,
skills and resources and have a united voice on issues such as community
education, service provision, funding and government policy.

The Commission engaged
Rodney Croome as Outlink Co-ordinator to establish the Network. Twelve
months after his appointment, Mr Croome convened an interim committee
of management in Sydney on 1 and 2 April 2000. The interim committee was
constituted by one young gay man and one young lesbian from each of NSW,
Qld, Tas and Vic, one young gay man from each of SA and WA and one young
lesbian from the ACT, together with seven rural service providers (two
from Vic and one each from NSW, SA, Qld, Tas and WA).

Outlink has an extensive
contact database and a website. With funding assistance from the Commission,
the ALSO Foundation and Rabbit International in Victoria, the Network
has produced a rural service providers' anti-homophobia training manual.
Not Round Here: Affirming Diversity, Challenging Homophobia, by Kenton
Penley Miller and Mahamati, was launched by the Human Rights Commissioner
in Bendigo on 13 June 2000 and in Cairns on 3 July 2000. Both events were
well-attended and received positive media coverage.

The Outlink Network
is now independent of the Commission although the Commission has a representative
on its management committee. The Outlink website is at http://www.outlink.trump.net.au

Action Exchange project

Every child with
the capacity to do so has the right to participate in decisions which
affect him or her. Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
states that

(1) States
Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or
her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters
affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight
in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

The right to participate
is a central element in all of the Commission's work involving children
and young people. During the reporting year the Commission initiated Action
Exchange, a project dealing specifically with this issue.

The Action Exchange Project Postcard

In January 2000 Action
Exchange was launched on the National Children and Youth Law Centre's
Lawstuff website (www.lawstuff.org.au). The Action Exchange webpages present
information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and give examples
of youth action in Australia and across the world. For example, the Margaret
River Youth Advisory Council in Western Australia is highlighted on the
webpages, including photos of a skatepark the young people helped create.
Action Exchange also encourages children and young people to submit examples
of projects they are involved in. Up to eight of the best projects submitted
will be highlighted on the webpages, allowing children and young people
to exchange ideas on speaking out and participating.

Research and policy

Immigration detention

Conditions
of Detention - Review

The Human Rights
Commissioner reviewed the four then-existing immigration detention centres
during 1998 and 1999:

  • Port Hedland
    Immigration Reception and Processing Centre, WA

  • Villawood Immigration
    Detention Centre, Sydney NSW

  • Perth Airport
    Immigration Detention Centre, WA

  • Maribyrnong
    Immigration Detention Centre, Victoria.

The Commissioner
inspected each centre and was briefed in detail by Department of Immigration
and Multicultural Affairs (DIMA) and Australasian Correctional Management
(ACM) managers. Staff also interviewed randomly selected detainees. The
Commissioner's review was published in March 2000. (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/asylum/index.html#idc_review).

Overall the Commission
was impressed with the efforts of both DIMA and ACM in 1998 to enhance
the physical conditions, the opportunities for activities and the support
services in detention. Very substantial improvements had been made in
a wide range of areas. However, the Commissioner noted a number of outstanding
matters of concern:

  • the refusal
    to advise new arrivals of their right to request legal assistance

  • the failure
    of the detainee handbook to advise detainees of the existence, role
    and contact details of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

  • the failure
    to employ interpreters and the failure to use interpreters at all
    times when needed, for example during induction at all centres and
    during medical appointments at Maribyrnong IDC

  • inadequate phone
    lines at Villawood IDC resulting in inadequate incoming access for
    lawyers and others needing to contact detainees

  • overcrowding
    at Villawood Stage One and long-term detention in overcrowded facilities
    with inadequate recreational facilities, no opportunity for classes
    or other productive activities, inadequate telephone access and no
    provision for privacy at Villawood Stage One and Perth IDC

  • holding of distressed
    and disturbed detainees in Villawood Stage One where offenders and
    violent detainees are also held

  • progressive
    tightening of security, including curfews, additional musters and
    increased transfer security, in response to a number of escapes -
    possibly inappropriate limits on expenditure on health care, especially
    dental and psychiatric care and the possibility that some medical
    staff and contractors are constrained by budget or contract pressures
    at the expense of their patients' well-being

  • failure to provide
    schooling for all children at Port Hedland IRPC, except attendance
    with adults at ESL classes.

It was also disturbing
that the proposed redevelopment of the Villawood site, scheduled to commence
in 1999, had been indefinitely delayed. Villawood Stage One, in particular,
is unsuitable for use as a detention centre.

In March 2000 the
Human Rights Commissioner inspected the new Woomera Immigration Reception
and Processing Centre near Roxby Downs in South Australia. The cramped
environment at the centre and the lack of adequate facilities, especially
for children, are matters of serious concern. The relatively remote location
of the Centre means that there is almost no access to trauma counselling
and other specialist services.

The Commission is
concerned that conditions within some detention centres may have deteriorated
in 1999-2000 following the substantial increase in the number of detainees.
The President will visit the Port Hedland IRPC and Villawood IDC and the
Human Rights Commissioner will visit the Curtin IRPC early in the 2000-2001
reporting year.

Immigration Detention Guidelines

With a view to enhancing
clarity and certainty as to the rights of detainees in immigration detention
and the obligations of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural
Affairs and ACM, the Commission published Immigration Detention Guidelines
in March 2000 (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/asylum/index.html#idc_guidelines
).

The Guidelines draw
on relevant international minimum standards which detail what is required
for humane detention consistent with respect for human dignity as required
by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention
on the Rights of the Child.

The Guidelines will
assist the Commission in its investigation of complaints about the treatment
of detainees.

Inhumane Detention - Perth
Immigration Detention Centre Complaint

During the 1999-2000
year the Commission reported to federal parliament on an individual complaint
of the violation of the human rights of a person in immigration detention.

On 22 April 1996
a Nigerian national, Mr George Johnson, entered Australia at Perth Airport
without valid travel documents. As a result of the complainant's unlawful
entry into Australia, he was placed in immigration detention at the Perth
Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). Immigration detention centres are
operated by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs but
detention services, including security, are contracted out. At the time
of Mr Johnson's detention, the contractor was Australian Protective Services
(APS), a federal government agency.

On 15 May 1997 the
complainant lodged a complaint with the Commission alleging that he had
suffered treatment during his detention at the Perth IDC which constituted
breaches of his human rights.

Allegation 1:
Following an argument with an APS officer, the complainant was placed
in a room without a window, where he remained for six days. He was
handcuffed for 8.5 hours and shackled for 7 hours.

Allegation 2:
APS officers at the Perth IDC required that the complainant be handcuffed
when escorted to an external medical facility for treatment for a
continuing medical condition. The complainant refused to be handcuffed
and accordingly was not treated for his condition.

Allegation 3:
The complainant was held in detention at the Perth IDC for more than
12 months in poor conditions of detention.

Before the Commission
could interview Mr Johnson in relation to these complaints, he was removed
from Australia. The Commission decided, however, that the allegations
were sufficiently serious to warrant continuing the investigation in his
absence. In his report (Report of an Inquiry into a Complaint of Acts
or Practices Inconsistent with or Contrary to Human Rights in an Immigration
Detention Centre, HRC Report No. 10, 28 June 2000; http://www.hreoc.gov.au/pdf/HRC_10.pdf
) the Commissioner found that Mr Johnson's treatment in relation to
Allegation 1 violated his right under ICCPR article 10:

All persons deprived
of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for
the inherent dignity of the human person.

The report details
the treatment Mr Johnson received and the Commissioner's findings and
recommendations. Recommendations include that the Department ensures the
Operational Orders for the Perth IDC contain clearer stipulations with
respect to the use of restraints and the application of force in the treatment
of detainees. Staff training was also recommended, to ensure that IDC
staff deal with distressed or aggressive detainees in an appropriate manner.
This training should emphasis techniques that allow detainees to be restrained
dignity and with minimum use of force.

Detention services
are currently provided under contract by a private company, Australasian
Correctional Management. During inspections in October 1998 the Human
Rights Commissioners found the conditions at the Perth IDC very much improved.

Legislative reform and assessment

Mandatory Sentencing in NT
and WA

The Commission has
been concerned about mandatory detention of juvenile offenders since mandatory
detention laws were first introduced in WA in 1992. In the 1997 report
Seen and heard: priority for children in the legal process, the Commission,
jointly with the Australian Law Reform Commission, condemned these laws
as they then operated in both WA and the Northern Territory.

CROC article 37 provides
in part:

(b) No child
shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily.
The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity
with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and
for the shortest appropriate period of time.

The highly punitive,
arbitrary and racially discriminatory operation of the Territory laws
in particular moved a group of federal Members of Parliament to develop
with the assistance of the Commission a proposal for their repeal: the
Human Rights (Mandatory Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders) Bill 1999. The
Commission published a Briefing Paper which evaluated the WA and NT legislation
(http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/child_rights/h5_1_7.html
) in and made a submission to the inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional
Legislation Committee into the Bill (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/child_rights/h5_1_8.html
).

In a historic press
conference on 17 February 2000, the Commission's President joined the
Human Rights Commissioner and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Social Justice Commissioner in condemning the NT legislation and calling
for it to be overturned by federal parliament (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/child_rights/h5_1_9.html).
The President noted that the NT and WA laws affect adults as well as juveniles
and therefore also contravene the prohibition of arbitrary detention in
article 9 of the ICCPR as well as article 37 of CROC.

Discrimination in Employment
and Occupation

The Discrimination
(Employment and Occupation) Convention - known as ILO 111 - (1958; 362
U.N.T.S. 31; http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/n3ilo111.htm
) was ratified by Australia in 1973. It requires States Parties to eliminate
employment-related discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, sex,
religion, political opinion, national extraction and social origin (article
1.1(a)). Article 1.1(b) permits a State Party to add grounds unilaterally
for its own domestic purposes. In 1989 Australia added the following grounds:
age, medical record, criminal record, impairment, marital status, mental,
intellectual or psychiatric disability, nationality, physical disability,
sexual preference and trade union activity (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission Regulations 1989).

ILO 111 is not incorporated
into Australian domestic law. However, it is scheduled to the Human Rights
and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth) (HREOCA) with the effect
that people aggrieved by employment-related discrimination on one or more
of the extended list of grounds may complain to the Commission (HREOCA
section 31(b)).

The Commission is
empowered `to endeavour, by conciliation, to effect a settlement' between
the disputing parties. If the Commission considers conciliation inappropriate
or the attempt has been unsuccessful, the Commission may report to the
Attorney-General and, through him, to Parliament.

In contrast with
other discrimination complaints, both federal and State or Territory,
HREOCA employment discrimination complaints cannot be dealt with by a
court or tribunal and therefore cannot lead to an enforceable remedy.

Several of the other
international instruments for which the Commission has responsibility
also contain prohibitions on discrimination, although they do not focus
specifically on employment.

The Commission has
dealt with issues of employment discrimination through broad national
inquiries, development of guidelines, examination of legislation and individual
complaints.

Age Discrimination Inquiry

Despite the limits
to its jurisdiction, the Commission has received numerous complaints about
employment-related age discrimination including

  • complaints about
    age stipulations in job vacancies listed by the former Commonwealth
    Employment Service and now Job Network agencies

  • complaints about
    age stipulations in job vacancies and training and promotional opportunities
    in the defence force

  • complaints from
    workers over 65 who were refused employment by employers citing age
    limits under legislation

  • complaints about
    age discrimination in trade union membership

  • complaints from
    older people about discrimination in the offer of redundancy packages
    and the monetary value of the packages

  • complaints from
    older people about compulsory retirement.

In light of concerns
about age discrimination, the inconsistencies between State and Territory
anti-discrimination laws and the fact that Commonwealth employees and
many Commonwealth laws and policies are not free from age discrimination,
the Commission instituted an inquiry into the need for federal age discrimination
legislation by publishing a discussion paper entitled Age Matters? in
April 1999.

It is nonsense
and ridiculous that the year I was born dictates that I have to be
retired, when I am both an excellent performer and in dire need of
the dollars. And have never been ill or incapacitated or absent. Performance
and attendance should be the only criteria - measurable ability to
do the job, and being there to do it every day (submission 25 to Age
Matters? inquiry).

Fifty-seven submissions
were received in response to the discussion paper. These were evaluated
and the Commission's report entitled Age Matters: a report on age discrimination
was tabled in the Federal Parliament on 28 June 2000 (http://www.hreoc.gov.au/human_rights/older_aust/h5_6_4.html
). The Commissioner launched the report in Melbourne on 18 July.

The report makes
recommendations for Commonwealth compliance with ILO 111 and also with
the non-discrimination and equality before the law provisions of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the
Rights of the Child (CROC).

Submissions to the
Age Matters? inquiry strongly favoured the introduction of comprehensive
federal age discrimination legislation on the lines of the existing federal
discrimination acts covering race, sex and disability discrimination.
The Commonwealth now lags well behind every state and territory in protecting
people from discrimination based on age. As a result, there are many discriminatory
laws, policies and practices of the Commonwealth that cannot be justified
as reasonable and proportionate. The Commission's 14 recommendations include
the need for the Commonwealth to conduct a national public and business
education program to counteract prevalent negative stereotypes about young
people and older people, to retain special measures for the assistance
of unemployed young workers, to introduce additional special measures
of assistance for unemployed older workers and to amend discriminatory
federal legislation including legislation and regulations dealing with
defence force employment. The report also recommends that Federal Parliament
enact a more rigorous and effective legal regime to prevent and to remedy
acts of discrimination based on age.

Religious Belief Discrimination
- Guidelines

In late 1999 the
Commonwealth contracted a number of religious organisations, including
the Salvation Army, Centacare, Wesley Mission and Mission Australia, to
undertake job search on behalf of unemployed people. Early in 2000 the
Commission received a number of complaints of discrimination on the ground
of religion in employment on the part of a number of these Job Network
agencies.

The complaints alleged
that selection criteria for employment with some of those agencies either
explicitly or implicitly required applicants to profess the religious
beliefs of the employing agencies.

While the complaints
were successfully conciliated, the Human Rights Commissioner decided to
produce guidelines for the benefit of all private agencies contracted
to provide services on behalf of the Commonwealth and of service recipients.
An expert consultant was commissioned to draft guidelines on religious
values and selection criteria for these agencies, using relevant international
law and policy as the reference point. The draft guidelines are currently
being circulated for stakeholder consultation and will shortly be published
in final form. The guidelines will be of assistance to Commonwealth funding
bodies, Commonwealth-funded services and members of the public, especially
those interested in employment with a Commonwealth-funded service.

Sexual Preference Discrimination
- Examination of Federal Legislation

In the report Superannuation
Entitlements of Same-Sex Couples (HRC Report No. 7, 1999) the Human Rights
Commissioner found that, by denying a same-sex partner of a superannuation
fund member the right to be a beneficiary in the event of the member's
death, the enactments are inconsistent with the human right to equality
before the law (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights article
26) and nullify equality of treatment in employment (International Labour
Organisation Convention Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment
and Occupation, No. 111). The report recommended amendment of federal
superannuation legislation. The Parliament is considering a private member's
bill which would implement that recommendation. The Government is not
supporting the Bill.

Age Discrimination - Australian
Defence Force Complaints

The Human Rights
Commissioner's eighth report (Age Discrimination in the Australian Defence
Force, HRC Report No. 8, 28 June 2000; [url to be included when known)
under section 31(b) of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Act 1986 (Cth) dealt with four complaints of age discrimination in the
Australian Defence Force which could not be conciliated. The complaints
were made by three prospective entrants to the ADF and one serving member
of the ADF:

  • Mr Robert Bradley
    who complained about the upper age limit of 35 for applicants for
    helicopter pilots in the army

  • Mr Kenneth Barty
    who complained about the upper age limit of 35 for applicants for
    Administrative Officer positions in the Royal Australian Air Force

  • Mr E W Petersen
    who complained about the upper age limit of 35 for applicants for
    Administrative Officer positions in the ADF generally and

  • Mr Ken Van Den
    Heuvel who complained about the upper age limit of 35 for remustering
    to a Load Officer position in the RAAF.

The Commissioner
concluded that each complainant had experienced age discrimination in
employment contrary to ILO 111 and that the age distinctions imposed could
not be justified by reference to the inherent requirements of the positions.
He recommended that the ADF should apologise to and/or compensate some
of the complainants and remove the age limits which denied them access
to the positions for which they applied.

Trade Union Activity Discrimination
- O'Brien Metal Complaints

The complainants,
Mr Ernest Edwards, Mr Ian Farrell and Mr Wayne Moate, were employed by
O'Brien Metal Products Pty Ltd, a small steel fabrication business comprising
a metal section and warehouse. They and several coworkers joined the National
Union of Workers on 28 May 1997 because of their concerns about perceived
unsafe working conditions following some accidents in the factory. Until
then, no employee of O'Brien Metal had been a member of a union. The complainants
alleged that, after they joined the Union and attended two meetings with
its organiser in June 1997, they were subjected to less favourable treatment
in the workplace, including harassment by management, a reduction in the
level of their work duties and a reduction in the amount of work allocated.
Each alleged that he was forced to leave his employment because of the
discriminatory treatment based on his trade union activity.

The Human Rights
Commissioner's report (Discrimination on the Ground of Trade Union Activity,
HRC Report No. 9, 28 June 2000; http://www.hreoc.gov.au/pdf/HRC_9.pdf
) details the nature of the treatment of the complainants in detail.
The Commissioner found that the weight of evidence supported the claims
of Messrs Edwards, Farrell and Moate that the actions of O'Brien Metal
through its managers occurred solely or partly because of their trade
union activity. There was a clear atmosphere of hostility towards the
union in the company from the time some of the employees joined it. Therefore,
they suffered discrimination in employment within the terms of the Act
as O'Brien Metal nullified or impaired their equality of opportunity in
relation to the terms and conditions of their employment because of their
trade union activity. This culminated in the complainants' forced departures
from their employment. The Commissioner recommended that each complainant
should receive $5,000 compensation.

Speeches

Attached
is a selection of speeches, seminars and presentations made by Commissioner
Sidoti in the reporting period. Selected papers are available on the HREOC
website.

Futures: Victorian
Rural Health Forum, Country AIDS Network of Victoria, Bendigo. June 1999.

Rights for All: A
human rights perspective on regional development, 27th National Congress
of the Royal Australian Planning Institute - Planning in the Hothouse,
Darwin. September 1999.

Rural youth suicide:
convention, context and cure, The Australian College of Health Service
Executives (SA), Adelaide. 14 October 1999.

The human rights
of older Australians in the bush, Seminar on Rural Ageing entitled Harnessing
the wisdom - Harvesting the gains. 1-3 November 1999.

Surviving the bush:
health and rural communities, Australian Healthcare Association National
Congress, Melbourne. 10 November 1999.

Rights for all: Building
inclusive communities for all generations, 1999 Sax Oration. 18 November
1999.

Statement on Mandatory
Sentencing, HREOC Press Conference. 17 February 2000.

Beyond Bush Talks,
Outback & Australian Association of Rural Nurses Toowoomba conference.
24 February 2000.

Age Matters: a report
on age discrimination - Council on Ageing (COTA) Australia, Melbourne.
18 July 2000.

Access to education:
a human right for every child, 29th Annual Federal ICPA Conference. 3
August 2000.

Last
updated 1 December 2001.