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Annual Report 2007-2008: Milestones

Annual Report 2007-2008

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ISSN 1031-5098

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Public Affairs Unit
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Level 8, Piccadilly Tower
133 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000

GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001

Telephone: (02) 9284 9600

General enquiries and publications: 1300 369 711
Complaints Infoline: 1300 656 419
TTY: 1800 620 241
Facsimile: (02) 9284 9611

Website: www.humanrights.gov.au
E-mail: paffairs@humanrights.gov.au

The 2007–08 Annual Report is available on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s website at
www.humanrights.gov.au/about/publications/annual_reports/2007_2008/


18 September 2008

The Hon. Robert McClelland MP
Attorney-General
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Attorney-General

I have pleasure in presenting the Annual Report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission for the period ending 30 June 2008, pursuant to section 45 of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986. The report has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of section 70 of the Public Service Act 1999.

Yours sincerely,

(signed)

The Hon. John von Doussa QC

President
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Level 8, Piccadilly Tower, 133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, NSW 2001
GPO Box 5218, Sydney, NSW 1042
Telephone: 02 9284 9600 Facsimile: 02 9284 9611

Website: www.humanrights.gov.au


2007-08 Milestones

  • Ms Elizabeth Broderick was appointed as Sex Discrimination Commissioner and Commissioner responsible for Age Discrimination on 10 September 2007 for a five year term. Ms Broderick succeeded President John von Doussa, who had been acting in the position since 4 November 2006.
  • The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) 1997 Bringing Them Home Report was a landmark document which played an important part in two major developments in Indigenous affairs during the reporting period: the National Apology to the stolen generations and the government’s commitment to the Statement of Intent to Close the Gap.
  • During 2007-08, three national Indigenous Legal Advocacy courses, of which HREOC is the copyright holder, were re-accredited for a five year period: the Certificate III, Certificate IV and the Diploma courses. These are the only courses in Australia that provide training to Indigenous legal advocates.
  • HREOC welcomed the commencement of the government’s investigation into captioning and media access with the release of a discussion paper by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in April 2008. HREOC also welcomed the inclusion of a trial of electronically assisted voting for people with a print disability in the 2007 Federal Election. HREOC also participated in consultations for the initial five year review of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport, the report of which is currently being finalised for submission to the Attorney-General and the Minister for Infrastructure.
  • HREOC launched the Same Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry Report at the end of the preceding reporting period. On 30 April 2008, HREOC welcomed the government’s announcement that discrimination against same sex couples and their children would be removed, not only from the 58 laws identified in HREOC’s report, which deal with financial and workplace related benefits, but from at least 40 additional pieces of legislation that discriminate in other areas.
  • An investigation began into areas of concern for sex and gender diverse individuals, which flowed directly from the Same Sex: Same Entitlements Inquiry. The conclusion of the reporting period saw the investigation focussing on the ability of gender diverse people to change identity documents such as birth certificates, passports and drivers licences.
  • During the reporting period, HREOC implemented its Community Partnerships for Human Rights Program, a National Action Plan funded set of initiatives that aim to assist the achievement of social inclusion for Australia’s Muslim communities and to help decrease marginalisation and discrimination on the basis of race or religion. Under one of these initiatives, the Community Police Partnership Project, 19 partnerships between police and Muslim communities were announced in April 2008. These partnerships aim to work with young Muslim Australians and law enforcement agencies to help address discrimination and vilification.
  • The Sex Discrimination Commissioner conducted a nationwide Listening Tour. The objective of the tour was to hear directly from people all around Australia about the key themes of: economic independence of women; balancing work and family across the life cycle; and freedom from discrimination, harassment and violence. The findings from the Listening Tour will be published early in the next reporting period.
  • HREOC implemented Mature Workers Mean Business, a print media and web-based public awareness campaign that promotes the benefits of employing mature age workers.
  • HREOC continued its most substantial international program through the China-Australia Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program (HRTC), which is an integral part of Australia’s annual inter-governmental Dialogue on Human Rights with China. HREOC also participated in the annual Vietnam-Australia Dialogue on International Organisations and Legal Issues, including Human Rights.
  • HREOC contributed to policy development and legislative review through the many submissions made during the reporting period. Submissions were made on a range of issues including the Northern Territory National Emergency Plan, the Stolen Generations Compensation Bill 2008, development of a new national Indigenous representative body, employment and disability, adoption of a federal charter of rights, multiculturalism, the Australian Citizenship Test, the new proposed National Employment Standards and paid maternity, paternity and parental leave.
  • Between 1 July 2007 and 30 June 2008, the President reported to the Attorney-General on two matters under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act 1986 (Cth).
  • During the reporting period, HREOC was involved as intervener in four matters. Commissioners were granted leave to appear as amicus curiae in three unlawful discrimination cases.
  • Each year HREOC hosts seminars on current issues of interest in domestic and international human rights law. Three Human Rights Law seminars were held in 2007-08.
  • During the reporting period, HREOC’s Complaint Information Service dealt with 18 765 enquiries, a 32 per cent increase in comparison with the average number of enquiries received over the past four years and a 13 per cent increase in comparison with the number of enquiries received in the previous reporting period.
  • HREOC received 2 077 complaints in 2007-08, a 28 per cent increase in comparison with the average number of complaints received over the past four years and a 17 per cent increase in comparison with the number of complaints received in the previous reporting period.
  • The Complaint Handling Section finalised 93 per cent of matters within 12 months of lodgement, 48 per cent of finalised complaints were conciliated and 74 per cent of all matters, where conciliation was attempted, were successfully resolved. These figures represent a significant increase on the rate of conciliation of finalised complaints over the previous reporting period.
  • In 2007-08, HREOC issued 154 media releases and alerts. The President and Commissioners had 20 opinion pieces published in major metropolitan newspapers across Australia and conducted hundreds of media interviews.
  • In August 2007, the HREOC website was redesigned in order to provide: a common navigation and style across the site; improved accessibility and usability features; improved comprehension by using plain English to revise existing content; new sections; and improved interactivity through the use of on-line blogs and video and audio downloads.
  • During 2007-08, there were approximately 11 195 404 page views and73 246 868 hits on the HREOC website. This equates to 3 728 515 unique visits.
  • During 2007-08, there were 939 141 page views of HREOC’s on-line human rights education resources, which are widely used by educators, both nationally and internationally.
  • In addition to all HREOC publications being available on HREOC’s website, over 66 000 publications were dispatched in hard copy during 2007-08.
  • The most popular publications were The Human Rights Commission’s Complaint Process, Face the Facts, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Design and Construction for Access and the general Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission brochure.

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