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Highlights of the year - Annual Report 2009-2010: Australian Human Rights Commission

Highlights of the year

10 key achievements

International students:

On 5 November 2009 we hosted the Australian and New Zealand Race Relations Roundtable 2009, highlighting the human rights of international students as a major issue. During the year under review, we directly engaged with over 700 international students and student representatives to identify key human rights issues, participated in numerous government and academic forums focusing on international student safety and we are currently leading the development of a draft International Student Compact. The compact will outline the rights and entitlements of international students in Australia and will be based on broad national consultations.

2009 Social Justice Report:

Launched on 22 January 2010, the 2009 Social Justice Report highlighted a new idea, justice reinvestment, as a solution to the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in the criminal justice system, addressed the perilous state of Indigenous languages in Australia which continue to die out at a rapid rate and profiled the homelands movement of the Northern Territory as an example of successful Aboriginal community development, governance and self-determination.

Disability Access to Premises Standards:

On 15 March 2010, after more than 10 years of cooperative work and negotiation between the Commission and other regulators, government, industry and the disability community, the federal government tabled its Disability (Access to Premises – Buildings) Standards in Parliament. The standards clarify how designers, developers, managers and building certifiers can meet their responsibilities under discrimination law to ensure buildings are accessible to people with disability.

Human Rights Consultation (and framework):

The report of the National Human Rights Consultation, released in October 2009, adopted most of our recommendations and proposed that Australia should adopt a national Human Rights Act. The Australian Government’s response, the Human Rights Framework released on 21 April 2010, did not go as far as many advocates wished, but included some significant steps toward better protection and promotion of human rights in Australia.


On 22 April 2010 we released rightsED, a range of new interactive education activities for teachers and students which introduce human rights concepts in an engaging and relevant way. rightsED comprises more than 450 pages of worksheets, activities, videos and audio resources to help students develop understanding of human rights and responsibilities.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples:

As part of the steering committee, we are proud to have assisted with the creation of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples which was incorporated, and its eight founding Directors appointed, on 2 May 2010. Establishment of this body means Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a credible national representative voice. Governments now have the opportunity to improve outcomes for Indigenous peoples through policies and programs developed in an environment of meaningful engagement.

Paid Parental leave:

On 17 June 2010, after three decades of lobbying, the passage of the Paid Parental Leave Bill 2010 was a triumph, not only for mothers and parents but for the Australian community. This critical piece of social infrastructure will help deliver stronger outcomes for mothers, families, businesses, the economy and our community as a whole. We see the scheme as a welcome first step and a solid base upon which to improve over time.

African Australians review:

On 18 June 2010 we released In our own words – African Australians: A review of human rights and social inclusion issues. This review was the culmination of three years work which included consultations with over 2500 African Australians who took part in 50 community meetings across the country. It also included the participation of over 150 government and non-government stakeholders and service providers and receipt of over 100 written and oral submissions. It considered, for the first time, the everyday experiences and urgent challenges that face African Australians – from their viewpoint, from a national perspective and within a human rights context.

Complaint handling:

Over the year under review, complaints made to the Commission about discrimination increased in number from those of previous years. In line with our commitment to continual service improvement, we revised aspects of our complaint service in order to meet these increasing demands and were able to decrease the average time from lodgement to finalisation of a complaint, increase the number of complaints that were successfully resolved to 50% and increase service satisfaction ratings to 95%.

Gender Equality Blueprint 2010:

Launched on 23 June 2010, the Gender Equality Blueprint 2010 focuses on the practical and achievable changes required to continue to progress gender equality in Australia. The blueprint sets out 15 recommendations in five priority areas: balancing paid work and family and caring responsibilities, ensuring women’s lifetime economic security, promoting women in leadership, preventing violence against women and sexual harassment and strengthening national gender equality laws, agencies and monitoring.