Annual Report 2008-2009
- Ms Catherine Branson QC was appointed as President of the Australian Human
Rights Commission on 7 August 2008 and commenced her five-year term on 14
- Mr Tom Calma was appointed Race Discrimination Commissioner on 2 July 2008
after acting in the position since 12 July 2004.
- Mr Graeme Innes was appointed Disability Discrimination Commissioner on 2
July 2008 after acting in the position since
15 December 2005.
- In July 2008, following the completion of her national Listening Tour, the
Sex Discrimination Commissioner launched the Plan of action towards gender
equality, setting out the five areas of reform she will pursue during her
- The reporting period saw Parliament pass the Same-Sex Relationships (Equal
Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – Superannuation) Act 2008 (Cth) and the
omnibus Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws –
General Reform) Act 2008 (Cth). The passing of these laws was an important
milestone for the Commission after its Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report,
tabled in Parliament in June 2007, identified
58 Commonwealth laws that
discriminated against same-sex couples and their children on the basis of
financial and workplace benefits.
- After many years of advocacy, the Commission welcomed the Australian
Government’s commitment to introduce a national Paid Parental Leave
scheme, which is scheduled to start in 2011.
- During the reporting period, the Commission welcomed the Australian
Government’s formal support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples, which commits Australia to respecting rights for
Indigenous peoples. The Declaration has been a major focus of the UN Permanent
Forum on Indigenous Issues over the last two years, sessions with which the
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has been
- The Commission also welcomed Australia’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which
Australia, the Commission and Australia’s disability community have made
major contributions during its development. The process of developing a National
Disability Strategy to implement the Convention has since begun.
- 2008-09 saw the draft Standards on Access to Premises tabled with bipartisan
Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee recommendations for the Standards to
- The Commission welcomed the signing of the Optional Protocol to the
Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or
Punishment by the Australian Government, a significant step toward
establishing greater oversight and inspection of detention and immigration
- During 2008-09, the Commission participated in the Australian
Government’s National Human Rights Consultation by advocating strongly for
better human rights protections in Australia through a Human Rights Act. The
Commission actively encouraged others to participate in the Consultation by
conducting workshops around the country.
- The Commission’s sex and gender diversity project inquiry and report,
Sex files: the legal recognition of sex in documents and government records, was
completed during the reporting period.
- Partnering with the Australian Multicultural Foundation, RMIT and Monash
University, the Commission launched its Freedom of religion and belief in the
21st century discussion paper.
- With the launch of its African Australians: a report on human rights and
social inclusion discussion paper, the Commission began the first national
assessment, from a human rights perspective, of the experiences and issues faced
by African communities living in Australia.
- The Commission continued the China-Australia Human Rights Technical
Cooperation Program, its most substantial international program, which is an
integral part of Australia’s annual inter-governmental Dialogue on Human
Rights with China.
- The Commission contributed to policy development and legislative review
through the many submissions it made during the reporting period. Submissions
were made on a range of issues, including the Native Title Amendment Bill 2009,
the Review of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the Fair Work Bill 2009, the
Review of Australia’s Future Tax System and the Disability Discrimination
and Other Human Rights Legislation Amendment Bill 2008.
- During the reporting period, the Commission intervened, with leave of the
Court, in five new matters and was involved in two matters that continued from
the previous financial year. Commissioners did not seek leave to appear as
amicus curiae in any matters, though the Disability Discrimination Commissioner
was involved in one matter continued from the previous financial year.
- The President reported to the Attorney-General on one matter under the Human
Rights and Equal Opportunity Act 1986 (Cth).
- The Commission hosted eight seminars on current issues of interest in
domestic and international human rights law.
- The Commission received 2253 complaints in 2008-09, an
increase in comparison with the previous reporting period. Ninety-three percent
of complaints were finalised in 12 months of lodgement, 48 percent of complaints
were conciliated and
68 percent of all matters, where conciliation was
attempted, were successfully resolved. These results are all well above key
- During the reporting period, the Commission issued 151 media releases. The
President and Commissioner had 21 opinion pieces published and, from over 1100
media inquiries, provided in excess of 520 interviews which resulted in a
significant amount of print, radio, internet and television coverage.
- In addition to Commission publications being available on the website, over
75 000 publications were dispatched in hard copy. The Commission provided online
translations, in various languages, of some core publications including the
general Australian Human Rights Commission brochure and the Commission’s
complaint process brochure. A number of education resources were updated during
the reporting period, and a new resource entitled It’s your right!
resource kit was released.
- The Commission increased its use of Web 2.0 technologies.
RSS and Podcasting for media releases and speeches from Commission events and
launched its own YouTube channel, Twitter account, MySpace and Facebook pages.
As part of the Sex files project, a blog was set up for anonymous consultation
purposes. The Commission website received 3 300 132 unique visits during
2008-09, with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice,
Disability Rights and Education sections attracting the most traffic.
- For the 21st year, the Commission presented its annual Human Rights Medals
and Awards to winners on World Human Rights Day, 10 December 2008. On the same
day, it also presented awards to three categories of winners in the 2008 Human
(Click on image to enlarge)
25 September 2009
The Hon Robert McClelland
CANBERRA ACT 2600
I have pleasure in presenting the Annual Report of the Australian Human
Rights Commission for the period ending 30 June 2009, 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
The Hon. Catherine Branson, QC
Australian Human Rights Commission
Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 8, Piccadilly Tower, 133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, NSW 2000
GPO Box 5218, Sydney, NSW 2001
Telephone: 02 9284 9600 Facsimile: 02 9284 9611
You can also write to:
Public Affairs Unit
Australian Human Rights
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001
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