Questions on Notice arising from
evidence given to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee's
Reference on the Australian Human Rights Commission Legislation Bill 2003
response, 13 May 2003
Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Questions on Notice arising from evidence given to the Senate Legal and Constitutional
Legislation Committee's Reference on the Australian Human Rights Commission Legislation
refer to the Questions on Notice taken by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity
Commission ("HREOC") during its evidence before the Senate Legal and
Constitutional Legislation Committee's Reference on the Australian Human Rights
Commission Legislation Bill 2003 ("AHRC Bill") on 29 April 2003 and
provide the responses below.
have also taken the liberty of adding some further information at the end of this
The submission made to the Committee by the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW
(John Ley asked us to comment on a couple of issues raised therein); and
An issue mentioned by the Attorney-General in the media as to the possible proliferation
of specialist Commissioner positions.
1. What new
powers would the Commission like to have?
submits that the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia would be
strengthened by the following changes to the law it implements:
Make discrimination complaints, as defined in section 3 of Human Rights and
Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth) ("HREOCA") and its Regulations
(which include age, sexual preference, religion/religious belief, criminal record,
trade union activity, political opinion) and outlined in section 32(1) of the
HREOC Act unlawful discrimination, in all areas of public life with enforceable
legal rights like those afforded under the Racial Discrimination Act 1975
(Cth) ("RDA"), Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) ("SDA"),
Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) ("DDA") and State anti-discrimination
the coverage of human rights breaches to include State acts and practices and
provide enforceable legal rights for complaints that allege breaches of human
rights as defined and outlined under sections 3; 11(1)(f) and 20(1) of HREOCA.
the monitoring role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Commissioner by legislatively providing for a Government response to the Social
Justice and Native Title Reports within a particular timeframe of the tabling
of the Reports.
How many complaints raise more than one claim of discrimination?
Greig, Hansard, p.8)
President is responsible for the complaint handling function of HREOC. The President
inquires into and endeavours, where appropriate, to resolve matters through conciliation.
The President has, since the commencement of the Human Rights Legislation Amendment
Act No. 1 1999, been responsible for inquiring into all complaints lodged
with HREOC including those that allege unlawful discrimination on grounds pursuant
to the RDA, SDA and DDA and complaints alleging either a breach of human rights
by the Commonwealth or discrimination in employment under HREOCA.
President is well placed and experienced to manage complaints that raise multiple
grounds of discrimination or human rights breaches. In the reporting year 2001-02,
HREOC received 1,271 complaints which can be broken down as follows:
Thirty six percent of these complaints were lodged under the DDA;
one percent were lodged under the SDA;
percent were lodged under the RDA; and
Eighteen percent were lodged under HREOCA (49% of which raised grounds concerning
not unlawful discrimination in employment - ie, age, religion, sexual preference,
criminal record and trade union activity; 44% alleging a breach of human rights
by the Commonwealth and 7% were not human rights as defined by HREOCA).
the 1,271 complaints received, only 65 (5.1%) raised double or multiple grounds
of alleged discrimination.
multiple grounds raised in the complaints appear in the table at
portion of the Commission's budget is presently spent on education and how, if
at all, would the reprioritisation impact upon that expenditure?
(Senator Ludwig, Hansard, p.9)
budget is utilised in respect of all of the areas contained in HREOC's Corporate
Plan provided as per section 46AA of HREOCA to the Attorney-General (see
Appendix B - HREOC's Corporate Plan). Those areas can be broadly categorised
as being complaint handling and the promotion of human rights.
the 2002-03 budget, HREOC's Departmental outcome appropriation was $11.137 million.
Since the passage of the Human Rights Legislation Amendment Act No. 1 1999
(Cth) which removed the function of complaint handling from the Commissioners
and centralised it in the President, it is estimated that 74% ($8.019 million)
of HREOC's budget is spent on the promotion of human rights (including school
education and publications) and 26% of the budget ($3.118 million) is spent on
complaint handling. This includes a pro rata allocation of corporate support costs.
The budget of the Public Affairs section which manages HREOC's more traditional
education programs for the current financial year is $775,000.
very nature of human rights means that areas and projects within HREOC's jurisdiction
have to be constantly reprioritised so as to react to the ever changing challenges
and demands in the human rights area. If a certain area is one of particular relevance
and need then the appropriate resources will be put by HREOC into educating the
public about those issues.
follows that it is not the reordering of functions by the AHRC Bill that will
determine how HREOC utilises its budget because HREOC must still balance all its
functions. Rather the changing issues and needs within Australian society decide
what priority is given to particular expenditure. As can be seen by the above
figures, however, education is certainly HREOC's primary expenditure item as would
be expected from a function that is at the core of all of HREOC's other functions.
How does the Commission deal with issues of discrimination for which there is
not a specific Commissioner?
Nettle, Hansard, p.12)
has had no difficulty dealing with issues for which there is not a specific Commissioner.
Many of HREOC's
legislative functions are the functions of HREOC as a body corporate and are performed
by HREOC as a whole thereby complementing the advocacy roles of the specialist
Commissioners. Furthermore, the President and Human Rights Commissioner have a
generalist role permitting them to consider a wide range of issues. In any case,
the specialist Commissioner roles are very broad. "Social justice for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander people" include those who are children, women
or have disabilities. "Women" include, for example, refugee women and
"people with disabilities" include those of either gender and from all
walks of life. The work of the Disability Discrimination Commissioner on Transport
Standards, for instance, benefits all men, women and children with a disability
in their every day lives. An outline of HREOC's work on children's rights (p.
4), age discrimination (p.7), sexual preference and related discrimination (p.8),
refugees (p.8) and religious discrimination (p.12) may serve to explain how such
issues are addressed within HREOC's current structure. The outline below is not
an exhaustive list and does not include various press releases, press conferences,
opinion pieces and conference papers which are part of the day to day work of
its establishment HREOC has given great emphasis to issues relating to children.
Public inquiries and reports
public inquiries and reports into children's rights include:
National inquiry into homeless children (Our Homeless Children, 1988).
Chaired by the Human Rights Commissioner.
inquiry into the human rights of people with mental illness resulting in the report
Human Rights & Mental Illness (1993) examined the rights of children
with mental illness (Chapter 20) and also the rights of the children of people
with mental illness (Chapter 16). Chaired by the Human Rights Commissioner.
inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
from their families resulting in the report Bringing them home (1997).
Part 6 (Chapters 20-26) of the report extensively evaluated contemporary laws
and practices resulting in the disproportionate removal of Indigenous children
from their families and made 13 detailed recommendations for a national response
to this contemporary issue. Co-chaired by the HREOC President and the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.
inquiry into children in the legal system conducted jointly with the Australian
Law Reform Commission resulting in the report Seen and heard: priority for
children in the legal system (1997). This Inquiry was the most comprehensive
examination of children and the legal system ever undertaken in Australia.
inquiry into age discrimination resulting in the report Age Matters (2000).
Chapter 3 dealt with 'Young people at work' and other sections covered income
support for young people and other discrimination affecting them. Undertaken by
the Human Rights Commissioner.
inquiry into rural and remote education resulting in several publications including
Recommendations (2000) made recommendations for ensuring Australian provision
of school education meets the minimum standards required by the Convention on
the Rights of the Child. Chaired by the Human Rights Commissioner.
inquiry into workplace pregnancy discrimination resulting in the report Pregnant
and Productive, It's a right not a privilege to work while pregnant (2002)
which made recommendations on breastfeeding and paid maternity leave. Undertaken
by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.
Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention (commenced 2001, report due later
in 2003). Chaired by the Human Rights Commissioner.
Research and publications
and publications on children's rights include:
Research on the sterilisation of girls and young women with disabilities; resulting
in the report The Sterilisation of Girls and Young Women in Australia: a legal,
medical and social context (1997).
of responses to the report Bringing them home in the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner's Social Justice Report 1998.
Social Justice Report 1999 focused on Indigenous children and young people.
Human Rights Brief No. 1 "The Best Interests of the Child" (May 1999).
Rights Brief No. 2 "Sentencing Juvenile Offenders" (June 1999).
'Action Exchange' on the National Children's and Youth Legal Service 'Lawstuff'
website: a web page for young people about their right to participate http://www.lawstuff.org.au/)
Round Here: Affirming Diversity, Challenging Homophobia a training manual
for service-providers working with young gay, lesbian and bisexual people in rural
report reviewing progress since 1997, The Sterilisation of Girls and Young
Women in Australia: issues and progress (2001).
Rights Brief No. 5 "Best practice principles for the diversion of juvenile
offenders" (September 2001).
time to value: proposal for a national paid maternity leave scheme, an interim
paper by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner (2002).
has intervened in the following cases raising children's rights issues:
Re Michael: John Briton, Acting Public Advocate (Victoria) v GP & KP and
HREOC (1994) FLC 92-486 - consent to surgical treatment by children.
a Teenager (1988) 94 FLR 181 - sterilisation of a young woman with a disability.
Re Marion No.2 (1994)
FLC 92-448 - sterilisation of a young woman with a disability.
v P; re Lessli
(1995) FLC 92-615 - sterilisation of a young woman with a disability.
Katie (1996) FLC 92-659 - sterilisation of a young woman with a disability.
Department of Health and Community Services v JWB and SMB (1992)
175 CLR 218 - sterilisation of a young woman with a disability.
v PS (1994) 68
ALJR 554 - child abduction.
the matter: of B and B: Family Law Reform Act 1995 (1997) No.TV 1833 -
inter-State relocation of children with custodial parent.
of State for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs v Teoh (1995) 183 CLR 273 - the
extent to which administrative decision-makers must take into account the Convention
on the Rights of the Child.
Formal consultation programs with young people and their advocates
Human Rights Commissioner played a key role in the organisation of Australia's
First National Summit for Children, Parliament House, Canberra, 1998.
Social Justice Commissioner conducted a National Indigenous Youth Forum in August
consultations were convened during the Race Discrimination Commissioner's civil
society consultations in preparation for the World Conference Against Racism (2001).
Human Rights Commissioner conducted national consultations in preparation for
the 2002 UN General Assembly Special Session on Children and participated in that
provided a submission to the inquiry by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation
Committee into the Human Rights (Mandatory Sentencing of Juvenile Offenders)
Ozdowski was appointed to the Attorney-General's Consultative Group on Children's
Privacy to advise on whether additional measures are needed to ensure the protection
of children's privacy since the extension of the Privacy Act to the private
sector in December 2001.
also provided advice to the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training
and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) DDA Standards Project developing a standard for accessible
Rights Commissioner Burdekin was an adviser to the Australian delegation at the
drafting sessions for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
have contributed to the development of optional protocols to the Convention on
the Rights of the Child on sexual exploitation of children and children in armed
children's rights projects
of Outlink: rural lesbian, gay and bisexual youth network (1999) which is now
independent of HREOC (outlink.trump.net.au/).
Public inquiries and reports
1999 HREOC was given a reference by the Attorney-General to investigate the implications
for older Australians and Australians with disabilities of new technologies in
electronic commerce and the provision of government and other services, and outline
their specific needs in accessing services which utilise these technologies. The
inquiry was chaired by the President and the final report, Access to electronic
commerce and new service and information technologies for older Australians and
people with a disability, was submitted to the Attorney in March 2000.
inquiry into age discrimination resulting in the report Age Matters (2000). Undertaken
by the Human Rights Commissioner.
Complaints and reports to Parliament
of age discrimination to HREOC under HREOCA that have resulted in a report to
the Attorney-General being tabled in Parliament include:
HRC Report No. 1 - Compulsory age retirement (1996)
Report No. 2 - Redundancy arrangements and age discrimination (1997)
Report No. 4 - Age discrimination in trade union membership (1997)
Report No. 8 - Age discrimination in the Australian Defence Force (2000)
Report No. 11 - Discrimination on the ground of age (2000)
Report No. 14 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Mr Andrew Hamilton
of age discrimination in the Australian Defence Force (2002)
Advice to government
provided a detailed response to the Commonwealth Government's Information Paper
containing its proposals for new Commonwealth age discrimination legislation (February
(iv) Other age
co-convenes the Ecommerce forum with the Australian Bankers Association and assisted
the Association in the development of voluntary Industry Standards to improve
the accessibility of electronic banking for older people and those with a disability.
D. SEXUAL PREFERENCE AND RELATED
has intervened in the following cases that raise issues of sexual preference and
Croome & Toonen v State of Tasmania (1997) 71 ALR 397 - inconsistency
between State and Federal legislation in relation to the criminalisation of homosexuality.
McBain: Ex parte Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
 HCA 16 (18 April 2002) - access by unmarried women including lesbians to
for the Commonwealth v Kevin & Jennifer & HREOC  FamCA 94 (21
February 2003) - the right of people with a transsexual history to marry.
Complaints and reports to Parliament
to HREOC of discrimination on the basis of sexual preference under HREOCA that
have resulted in a report to the Attorney-General being tabled in Parliament include:
HRC Report No. 6 - Discrimination on the ground of sexual preference (1998).
Report No. 7 - Superannuation entitlements of same-sex couples (1999).
Advice to government
provided a submission Human rights for Australia's gays and lesbians (1997)
to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee inquiry into Sexuality Discrimination.
It reviewed the areas in which discrimination against gay men and lesbians is
prevalent including employment, superannuation and immigration.
Not Round Here: Affirming Diversity, Challenging Homophobia a training manual
for service-providers working with young gay, lesbian and bisexual people in rural
of Outlink: rural lesbian, gay and bisexual youth network (1999) which is now
independent of HREOC (outlink.trump.net.au/).
does not have direct jurisdiction with respect to the Refugees Convention. However,
the Refugees Convention is part of HREOC's children's rights jurisdiction by virtue
of article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and civil and
political rights as set out in both that Convention and the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights are applicable to asylum seekers within Australia
and, indeed, to all non-citizens. Promotion and monitoring of the enjoyment of
these rights falls principally to the Human Rights Commissioner. HREOC has undertaken
the following projects relevant to the rights of asylum seekers and other administrative
inquiries and reports
public inquiries and reports on the issue of refugees include:
National inquiry undertaken by the Human Rights Commissioner into immigration
detention resulting in the report Those who've come across the seas: detention
of unauthorised arrivals (1998).
inquiry chaired by the Human Rights Commissioner into children in immigration
detention (due to report later in 2003).
Research and publications
research and publications on refugees include Face the Facts: some questions
and answers about Immigration, Refugees and Indigenous Affairs (first edition
1997; second edition 2001; third edition forthcoming 2003).
Immigration Detention Guidelines (2000) draw on relevant international
minimum standards detailing what is required for humane detention consistent with
respect for human dignity as required by the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
are regular reports on reviews of immigration detention by the Human Rights Commissioner
including: 1998-99 review of Port Hedland, Perth, Villawood and Maribyrnong IDCs;
report of the July 2000 visit to Curtin IRPC; A Report on Visits to Immigration
Detention Facilities by the Human Rights Commissioner 2001 (tabled October
also published research on temporary protection visas and the Racial Discrimination
Act 1975 (Cth) (2002) for public comment: www.humanrights.gov.au/racial_discrimination/Erace/tpvs/index.html
has intervened in the following matters that raise issues related to refugees
and asylum seekers:
Re Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs; Ex parte
Applicants S134/2002  HCA 1 (4 February 2003); NAAV v Minister for
Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs  FCAFC 228 (15
August 2002) - section 474 ('the privative clause') of the Migration Act 1958
Council for Civil Liberties Incorporated & Vardalis v Minister for Immigration
& Multicultural Affairs & Ors  FCA 1297 (11 September 2001);
Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs & Ors v Vardalis &
VGCCL  FCA 1329 (17 September 2001); Vardalis v Minister for Immigration
& Multicultural Affairs & Ors - M93/2001 (27 November 2001) (special
leave application to High Court of Australia) - human rights of asylum seekers
aboard the MV Tampa.
v Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs; Martizi v Minister for
Immigration & Multicultural Affairs
 FCAFC 194 (20 June 2002) - guardianship of unaccompanied children.
for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs v VFAD of 2002 
FCAFC 390 (9 December 2002); Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous
Affairs v Al Masri  FCAFC 70 (14 March 2003) - continued detention pursuant
to section 196 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).
Dung Luu v Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs
 FCA 1136 17 August 2001); Luu v Minister for Immigration Multicultural
Affairs  FCAFC 369 (27 November 2002) - continued detention after serving
a criminal sentence and pending deportation.
v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1996)
64 FCR 245 - detainees' access to legal representatives.
L J & Z v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs,
unreported, O'Loughlin J, 30 March 1995 - refugee status as a result of the one
child policy of the People's Republic of China.
Guan Chun &Ors v Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethic Affairs
& Ors (1996)
65 FCR 164; (1996) 136 ALR 303 - Protection visas under the Migration Act 1958
Reef Inquest', Record of Investigation into Deaths of Nurjan Husseini and Fatimeh
Husseini, Coroner's Court of WA, Ref No 29/02 (13 December 2002) - deaths by drowning
of asylum seekers aboard the Sumber Lestari.
Complaints and reports to Parliament
by HREOC to the Attorney-General that have been tabled in Parliament and arise
out of complaints under HREOCA alleging human rights breaches in relation to refugees
and asylum seekers include:
HRC Report No. 10 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint of acts or practices
inconsistent with or contrary to human rights in an Immigration Detention Centre
HRC Report No. 12 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint of acts or practices
inconsistent with or contrary to human rights in an immigration detention centre
Report No. 15 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Ms Elizabeth Ching
concerning the cancellation of her visa on arrival in Australia and subsequent
mandatory detention (2002).
Report No. 16 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Mr Hocine Kaci of
acts or practices inconsistent with or contrary to human rights arising from immigration
Report No. 17 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by the Asylum Seekers
Centre concerning changes to the Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme (2002).
Report No. 18 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Mr Duc Anh Ha of acts
or practices inconsistent with or contrary to human rights arising from immigration
Report No. 21 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by six asylum seekers
concerning their transfer from immigration detention centres to State prisons
and their detention in those prisons (2002).
Report No. 22 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Mr XY concerning his
continuing detention despite having completed his criminal sentence (2002).
Report No. 23 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Mr Hassan Ghomwari
concerning his immigration detention and the adequacy of the medical treatment
he received while detained (2002).
Report No. 24 - Report of an inquiry into complaints by five asylum seekers
concerning their detention in the separation and management block at the Port
Hedland Immigration Reception and Processing Centre (2002).
Report No. 25 - Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Mr Mohammed Badraie
on behalf of his son Shayan regarding acts or practices of the Commonwealth of
Australia (the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs)
to Government on the issue of refugees include:
Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee inquiry
into the Migration Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 4) 1997 & Migration
Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1997 (1997).
to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee inquiry into the
Migration Legislation Amendment (Judicial Review) Bill 1998.
to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee inquiry into the operation
of Australia's refugee and humanitarian programs (1999).
to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee inquiry into the special
benefit provisions relating to the newly arrived residents waiting period (1998).
to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration inquiry into the Deportation of Non-Citizen
to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Review of Migration Regulation
to the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Review of Migration Legislation
Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2000 (2000).
Rights and International Law implications of Migration Bills
(September 2001): a briefing paper outlining the human rights and international
law implications of the following Bills then before the Senate: Border Protection
(Validation and Enforcement Powers) Bill 2001,Migration Amendment (Excision from
Migration Zone) Bill 2001 and Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration
Zone) (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2001.
addition to a jurisdiction to investigate employment-related complaints of discrimination
on the ground of religion, HREOC also has responsibility more broadly for complaints
against the Commonwealth that religious freedom has been violated (by virtue of
article 18 of the ICCPR and the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms
of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief - a relevant
international instrument subject to a HREOCA section 47 declaration). Further,
HREOC is responsible for promoting awareness and monitoring enjoyment of these
(i) Public inquiries
Human Rights Commissioner on behalf of HREOC conducted a national inquiry into
freedom of religion and belief resulting in the report Article 18: Freedom
of Religion and Belief (1998) recommending a Religious Freedom Act be enacted
among other recommendations.
Research and other publications
and publication in this area include:
Human Rights Brief No. 3 "Freedom of Religion and Belief" (October 1999).
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth): its application
to religious freedom and the right to non-discrimination in employment, an information
forum on Islam, Islamophobia and the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth
Formal consultation program on religious freedom
Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner is conducting throughout 2003 'Isma -
Listen: National consultations on eliminating prejudice against
Arab and Muslim
How is the effectiveness of the Commission's education function evaluated?
Payne, Hansard, p.13)
Curriculum linked study units on human rights and anti-discrimination issues for
teachers and students
Human Rights Human Values and Youth Challenge
very successful human rights school education program comprising two modules,
Human Rights Human Values and Youth Challenge, was developed by
the Commission and delivered by the Commission in conjunction with state equal
opportunity commissions between 1998 and 2000.
materials for the program were sent to schools in advance of the conduct of the
independent evaluation in the Studies magazine that was sent to
all schools prior to their participation in the Youth Challenge workshops
showed that the materials were used or would be used by more than 500,000 students.
The assessment by the students judged the articles on human rights and anti-discrimination
to be 23% excellent, 51% very good and 24% good. Evaluations by the students who
attended the Youth Challenge day showed they had a substantially increased awareness
of human rights and discrimination issues. An average of 98% of participants and
90% of teachers reported that they found the Youth Challenge materials
and the workshop day as either excellent or very good.
2001 the Commission decided to redesign the Youth Challenge teaching
materials which included the Human Rights Human Values materials and
publish the first online human rights education program for teachers of secondary
students by way of human rights education modules for teachers. The materials
were developed to provide teachers with a range of teaching strategies and materials
which are all curriculum linked.
Commission adopted a direct marketing approach by the use of a mailing list to
3000 self-subscribed teachers and educators Our major means of evaluation
is a very direct one subscribers may delete their names at any time In fact some
500 more educators have joined the mailing list since 2001.
Commission sends a monthly update to these educators providing them with a range
of human rights education resources and other helpful materials. We ask teachers
to provide feedback on the teaching materials and we receive regular feedback
via our web feedback facility, and use this in the development of further teaching
Statistics on usage
Commission closely monitors its online statistics to assess relevancy and use
of education materials.
evidence of the success of the promotional activity can be seen in the
following statistics which show a very high incidence of people accessing the
Commission's education materials.
views for the Commission's on-line education materials are:
Challenge - 112 915 (Dec 2001 - April 2003)
2001 - Jun 2002: 56 791
1 Jul - 30 Sept 02: 20 173
1 Oct - 31 Dec 02:
1 Jan - 30 April 22 300
for Students - 103 513 (Jul 2001 - April 2003)
2001 - Jun 2002: 52 708
1 Jul - 30 Sept 02: 21 255
1 Oct - 31 Dec 02:
1 Jan - 30 April 03: 15 574
for Teachers - 118 681 (May 2002 - April 2003)
May - 30 June 02: 23 747
1 Jul - 30 Sept 02: 37 316
1 Oct - 31 Dec 02:
1 Jan - 30 April 03: 32 111
Commission also has education material on its website for tertiary level students
called Human Rights Explained. The following statistics show a consistently high
usage of this part of the website:
Rights Explained - 96 552 (Jul 2001 - April 2003)
Dec 2001 - Jun 2002: 49 008
1 Jul - 30 Sept 02: 19 950
1 Oct - 31 Dec
02: 13 477
1 Jan - 30 April 03: 14 117
evaluation and feedback form is also provided online which asks teachers to let
the Commission know how the materials are being used and to suggest ways of improving
the education materials. The Commission receives regular and positive feedback
about the materials and has taken some suggestions on board as to the development
of further materials. For example, a hard copy of a teachers' resource, Teaching
Human Rights and Responsibilities in the Classroom, which updates the online
education material contained in Youth Challenge will be distributed by
June 2003 to all secondary schools. A major education module based on the Bringing
Them Home Report will be also launched about this time. Each one will invite
direct feedback from users.
Recognition from outside Educational organisations
success of the Commission's education program was underscored when Youth Challenge
was short listed for The Australian's '2002 Awards for Excellence in
Educational Publications'. EdNa online which is national online education
resource regularly uses information from the Commission's education programs.
Other professional educational associations also regularly publish information
about HREOC's educational resources, including the Australian Education Union
(through its journal) and the Australian Literacy Educator's Association.
Commission's website was established in 1998. Since that time it has become the
organisation's primary source of information dissemination. The Commission has
developed a very successful on-line presence, with page views of the Commission's
site increasing by over 40% in 2001-02 to 3,205,693 page views, or approximately
33 million "hits". Statistical information on major sections of the
HREOC site for the 2001 - 2002 financial year are included below.
Commission's email based electronic mailing list service provides for regular
communications to many groups, including community, government lawyers and the
media. There are currently more than 14,000 subscribers across 11 topic-based
is a facility for direct communication from web users via the webpage
facility. The Commission receives an average of 30 messages a day via this facility.
Response to submission by the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW
submission of the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW ("ECC") raised a
number of issues in relation to HREOC's conciliation function under HREOCA that
HREOC seeks to clarify.
ECC submitted in relation to HREOC's 'conciliation function' that present procedures
with the requirement for compulsory conciliation result in lengthy delays and
often reduce the effectiveness of the remedies, particularly those in vilification
does not agree that there are lengthy delays in the handling of complaints. HREOC
does not convene compulsory conciliation conferences although it has the statutory
authority to do so. HREOC is of the view that the voluntary nature of conciliation
increases the likelihood of the resolution of complaints. If complaints are unsuitable
for conciliation or unable to be conciliated they are terminated by the President
so that the complainant can pursue the matter through the courts.
Charter of Service outlines HREOC's commitment to an effective and efficient
complaint handling service. Further, a publicly committed key performance indicator
states that 75% of complaints are to be finalised within 12 months of receipt
of a complaint. In the year 2001-02, 88% of complaints were finalised within this
regards to 'vilification' matters in particular, a total of 50 complaints were
lodged under the Racial Hatred provisions of the RDA in the 2001-02 reporting
year. Thirty (60%) of these complaints were allocated to an officer for action
within one month of receipt of the complaint. Eighty eight percent of the complaints
had been allocated for action within two months of receipt.
eight of the complaints received in 2001-02 reporting year have been finalised
within the following timeframes from receipt of complaint:
than 3 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
than 12 months
acknowledges that complaints made under the RDA have a lesser chance of resolution
through conciliation compared to those under the SDA and DDA. The reasons for
this are varied but include the difficulty complainants have in linking their
race to the less favourable treatment alleged and the associated limited case
precedent in this area.
outcomes for the finalised matters were as follows:
majority of racial hatred complaints concern disputes with neighbours and media
those matters terminated in the 2001-02 reporting year the following reason was
reasonable prospect of conciliation
12 months old
ECC also submits that in the area of vilification by committed racists, the conciliation
procedure is often useless, demeaning and counter-productive and submits that
conciliation not be a 'condition precedent' for the institution of proceedings
in the Federal Court and that compulsory conference should be ordered by the Court.
acknowledges that not all complaints are conducive to conciliation for a variety
of reasons. There is no requirement in HREOCA for conciliation to have been attempted
before a matter can proceed to the courts. A complainant may proceed to the courts
if the President has terminated a complaint for any of the nine statutory reasons
outlined in section 46PH (1) of HREOCA which includes that there is no reasonable
prospect of the matter being settled by conciliation. (Refer to table above).
ECC submits that the conciliation functions of HREOC should be transferred to
the Federal Court to be conducted by the Registrar of the Court.
is of the view it is appropriate that the conciliation function remain with it
given its lengthy experience. The process of conciliation is a well established
alternate dispute resolution model with an underlying objective to avoid unnecessary
formal legal proceedings and costs. Should a complaint be terminated by the President
and the complainant proceeds to the Courts the parties are given an opportunity
to resolve the matter that is before the Court.
Attorney-General's comments in media
HREOC gave its evidence to the Committee, the Attorney-General has made comments
in the media that in the event that the restructuring of HREOC proposed by the
AHRC Bill does not occur, there will be demands to increase the number of specialist
Commissioners so as to deal with the wide range of issues that fall within HREOC's
jurisdiction, such as children, refugees and the aged.
does not and has not proposed the creation of a new office to deal with every
issue raised by its jurisdiction.
two reports, the strengthening of HREOC's existing jurisdiction on age discrimination
(Age Matters: a report on age discrimination, May 2000, recommendation
14) and religious discrimination (Article 18: Freedom of religion and belief,
July 1998, recommendations R4.1 and R5.4) has been recommended. In neither case
did HREOC recommend the establishment of a Commissioner with specific responsibility
for the expanded jurisdiction.
on the ground of age and religion are already provided for in HREOCA but only
in the employment field. HREOC's responsibility for promoting awareness of and
compliance with these and other employment-related discrimination grounds (under
ILO 111) including sexual preference and trade union activity currently falls
principally to the Human Rights Commissioner. The President deals with complaints
of employment-related discrimination under ILO 111.
protection for children's rights was recommended in a joint report with the Australian
Law Reform Commission (Seen and heard: priority for children in the legal process,
September 1997). The report did not recommend the establishment of an office of
Children's Commissioner within HREOC. Rather it proposed that an Office for Children
should be established within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. HREOC's
responsibility for promoting awareness of and compliance with children's rights
as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (subject of a 13
January 1993 declaration as a relevant international instrument under HREOCA section
47) currently falls principally to the Human Rights Commissioner. The President
deals with complaints of human rights violations, including violations of children's
rights, by the Commonwealth.
furtherance of HREOC's existing statutory functions with respect to children's
rights and freedom from age, sexual preference and religious discrimination, the
Human Rights Commissioner and the Commission as a whole have undertaken a large
body of work, without the need for a specialist commissioner. The activities listed
in response to Question on Notice 4 above as well as many other issues as diverse
as prisoners' rights and the governance of Norfolk Island illustrate how a wide
range of matters can be successfully managed with HREOC's current structure.
has been a member of the Attorney-General's Consultative Group of the proposed
age discrimination legislation and has suggested ways in which age discrimination
can be dealt with within HREOC's existing structure.
do not hesitate to contact me if you require any further information in relation
to this matter.
updated 22 May 2003.