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Human Rights 21: Getting the message out - Human Rights Education

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Getting the message out: human rights education

HREOC has been extraordinarily important to me as a researcher and policy advocate, as an academic and as a citizen. It has been a significant reminder of our international and domestic obligations. In times when many of these rights are questioned, it is important that there is an officially funded independent source of information, public education, complaints handling and research.
Eva Cox - Academic and social commentator


One of the most important ways to protect human rights is to build community understanding and challenge attitudes which are based on myths and stereotypes. The key to this is education.

Education is a crucial area of HREOC’s work. At a basic level, everything we do – from resolving individual complaints to holding national inquiries – is about human rights education.

We also develop programs and resources to work directly with a broad range of groups in the community.

Working with media

HREOC has consistently engaged with the media to promote human rights issues.

Each year the President and Commissioners give hundreds of interviews to newspaper, television, radio and online media outlets, as well as specialist, Indigenous and ethnic media.

Extensive coverage of major HREOC reports has been critical in drawing public attention to important human rights issues and bringing about positive change in attitudes, laws and policies.

For the latest HREOC media releases, opinion pieces and speeches go to or email

In the areas of Indigenous and Disability Rights in particular, we have worked with HREOC on major national campaigns that have seen significant progress towards greater awareness of human rights and greater protection.

Robin Banks - Chief Executive Officer, Public Interest Advocacy Centre


Working with schools

With support from education departments, schools and teachers, HREOC has developed a wide range of curriculum-linked education resources for use in schools across Australia.

Provided on-line and in hard copy formats, the resources aim to help students develop an understanding of their rights and responsibilities and how they apply to everyday life.

We also offer professional development programs and resources to support teachers with ideas and approaches for teaching human rights in the classroom.

Information on HREOC’s education resources for teachers and students is available at or email

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Working with the community

Community consultations provide a valuable two-way exchange of information between HREOC and the many different organisations with which we work: community groups, NGOs, government agencies, business and industry, parliamentarians, lawyers and academics.

Community consultations have been the foundation of recent projects which aim to tackle prejudice against Arab and Muslim Australians, develop strategies to strike the work-life balance and respond to concerns with changes in Indigenous affairs.

Seminars and workshops are also an opportunity for HREOC to share information about what we do, such as our complaint handling role, or to discuss emerging issues in human rights law.

HREOC is a vital voice for human rights issues in Australia. Its recent paper on Multiculturalism is an outstanding presentation and an excellent example of a positive contribution to the culturally and linguistically diverse community that the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia serves.
Voula Messimeri - FECCA Chairperson


Working with government

HREOC regularly provides advice and recommendations to Australia’s governments, parliaments and other government agencies to ensure that laws, policies and programs treat people fairly.

Recent submissions to parliamentary inquiries have addressed anti-terrorism laws, changes to workplace relations, migration law, the ‘stolen wages’ inquiry and the Northern Territory intervention.

Find out more about HREOC’s submissions at

HREOC has been tremendously important in the way they’ve consistently raised issues over pay equity and non discriminatory practices in terms of women’s incomes. There is no doubt that having an entity with the capacity to initiate and publicise research is a very important part of our democracy.
Marie Coleman - Chair Social Policy Committee, National Foundation for Australian Women


Good Practice, good business

Working with employers and employees

There is an ongoing need to educate employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities under federal anti-discrimination laws, especially in today’s changing industrial relations environment.

Online resources, such as Work out your rights and Good Practice, Good Business,provide practical information about dealing with discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Information for employers is available at and information for employees at

HREOC came of age long before its 21st milestone and has since its inception consistently made significant contributions to fostering a greater understanding of human rights and promoting equal opportunity in Australia.
Heather Ridout - Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group


Social justice and native title reports

Social Justice Report 2006 cover

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner is required to prepare reports to federal Parliament annually on the significant social justice and native title issues facing Indigenous Australians.

Since 1993 the Social Justice Reports have addressed a broad range of critical issues: health and education, family violence, children’s rights, criminal justice and deaths in custody issues, self determination and reconciliation. Landmark research in the reports have included the Social Justice Package proposal (1995), stolen generations (1998), benchmarking reconciliation and human rights (2001), Indigenous women in corrections and post-release services (2003, 2004) and Indigenous health equality (2005).  

Native Title Reports have examined the operation of the Native Title Act, key native title court decisions, international scrutiny of the Act, land use negotiations and strategies for creating sustainable economic and social development on traditional land.

The reports have come to be respected as the annual 'state of the nation' review of Indigenous human rights in Australia with a comprehensive analysis of the issues based on human rights principles, along with practical recommendations to help Indigenous Australians more fully enjoy their rights.

Find out more about the annual Social Justice and Native Title reports at

In these trying times Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are comforted in the knowledge that we have HREOC as the defender, advocate and protector of our human rights, and for that we are grateful.
Mick Gooda, Gangulu - Chief Executive Officer, Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health

Native Title Report 2006

Human rights online

Virtually unheard of when HREOC was established, today the internet is one of the organisation’s primary tools for providing information, resources and publications.

The HREOC website is used widely by legal, community and employer groups, government, journalists, teachers, students and individuals. Last year it recorded more than 12.6 million page views.

Electronic mailing lists help us to regularly share information with different groups, an increasing number of people lodge complaints online, e-forums and blogs allow us to engage with people around the country.

See HREOC’s website and join the mailing lists at

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