Getting the message out: human rights education
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.
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.
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.
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 www.humanrights.gov.au/legal/submissions
Marie Coleman - Chair Social Policy Committee, National Foundation for Australian Women
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 www.humanrights.gov.au/info_for_employers and information for employees at www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints_information/WOYR
Heather Ridout - Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group
Social justice and native title reports
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 www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice
Mick Gooda, Gangulu - Chief Executive Officer, Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health
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 www.humanrights.gov.au