“Standing up for basic rights and freedoms”
Human rights is, in many ways, a technical term for some very simple concepts: dignity, humanity, tolerance and respect.
These values provide the cornerstone of strong communities in which everyone, regardless of their background, can feel included and make a contribution.
Australia is a stable and peaceful nation. Its success is based on a long-standing commitment to robust parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, a free media, a healthy civil society and, of course, the protection of human rights.
In a turbulent and ever changing world, however, a nation’s commitment to protect human rights can be sorely tested. These ‘new’ challenges come in different guises: terrorism, immigration, climate change.
Time and again, the argument is put that human rights should give way in order to achieve greater security. Some even claim that the age of human rights has come and gone.
When we erode human rights, be it through intent or negligence, democracy and the rule of law suffer. Perversely, our way of life becomes less – not more – secure.
The challenge before all of us is to continue to stand up for the protection of basic rights and freedoms.
It is a job that the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has committed itself to since its establishment in 1986.
Charged with a statutory responsibility to ensure that basic minimum standards are upheld, the Commission has been a passionate defender of human rights on behalf of all Australians and especially so for those living on the margins of our community.
Over the past 21 years the Commission has evolved as a strong, independent body and grappled with a broad range of complex issues, including: discrimination, harassment, exclusion and injustice.
As this publication demonstrates, the Commission’s achievements throughout this time have been significant.
They have also provided the organisation with valuable lessons and insights which will equip it to confront and respond to the diverse human rights challenges of the 21st Century.
The Hon. John von Doussa