ALHR 2017/2018 Annual President and Vice President’s Report

June 5, 2018

ALHR’s 2017/2018 President and Vice President’s Report provides an insightful snapshot into the formidable output in human rights advocacy at ALHR over the past twelve months.

The report also marks a new era of leadership at ALHR with Benedict Coyne stepping away from the Presidency after two fantastic years at the helm. Kerry Weste has been elected as the new President of ALHR along with Jarrah Ekstein as Vice President. 

Please read on to find out more about what makes ALHR Australia’s leading association for human rights advocacy.

Executive Summary

We are very excited and honoured to present our second ALHR annual President and Vice President’s Report.

ALHR has had another very excellent and extremely productive year with a significant amount of advocacy output as well as internal adjustments and governance enhancements. This includes the establishment of the Executive Management Committee (EMC) comprising the members of the ALHR Executive and elected Ordinary Members as an initiative to streamline the large extracurricular workloads of all of our fabulous members of our ALHR National Committee, which keeps growing stronger with now 32 members from around the continent. This restructure was part of our commitment stipulated in last year’s Annual Report as follows:

“Our growth and the ensuing significant increase in activity has also raised challenges. One of our key priorities in the coming year will be to successfully navigate ALHR through these and deliver a (re)structure and processes that ensure sustainability, good governance, and the financial resources that ALHR requires in order to fully realise its potential, to maintain and build on its position as one of the leading voices on human rights issues in Australia.”

Our nine thematic national subcommittees have continued to grow and build on various campaigns with their respective subcommittee members and our media exposure through the expert hands of our superb professional media manager, Matt Mitchell including through appearances on ABC’s 7.30 Report, Channel 10 ‘s The Project and in newspapers through Australia and overseas.

Our National Committee members are extremely talented and dedicated individuals, all of whom volunteer their time on top of busy day-jobs and other life-responsibilities, and who have worked tirelessly to increase the profile of ALHR nationwide and increase the impact of our work locally, nationally and internationally.

We have both been involved with ALHR for the past half-decade, so it is a great source of pride for us to see how well ALHR is growing, glowing and flowing. Our mighty momentum is an endless source of inspiration and hope and given the current unprecedented challenges to human rights, both locally and globally, our upward trajectory must continue for the betterment of our communities, our society and for all our fellow Australians.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the commitment and engagement of our marvellous membership across Australia and around the globe. ALHR accepts no funding from governments or political organisations and our functionality relies entirely on the goodwill and energetic investment of all of us volunteers on the National Committee and of the goodwill contributions of ALHR members. So please accept a HUGE thank you from us for being involved and take this as a warm invitation to become more involved and to invite your friends and colleagues to become involved as there is much important work to do at this remarkable time in history.

Benedict will also be stepping down from President after two years in the role, Kerry Weste will be nominating for President along with Jarrah Ekstein who will be nominating as Vice-President. Benedict has had an absolutely excellent experience in the role of President and has seen and implemented many positive changes with the brilliant collegiate team on the National Committee and Executive Management Committee (EMC). We are very fortunate to have such a democratically robust, horizontal and largely consensus-based organisation where the ALHR National Committee and the EMC are both composed of a diverse array of erudite leaders in different fields who have provided an infinite wellspring of inspiration and education over the past two years and beyond.

Now is a good time for fresh energy in the role of President and Benedict would like to express a very deep gratitude:

  • to Kerry, who has been an absolute pleasure to work with, for all her amazing work in the past two years, and
  • to all the marvellous members of the National Committee for working so hard and being passionate and committed to the very important work we do;
  • to the magical Matt Mitchell for all of his media mogul guidance;
  • to all ALHR members for believing and investing in the important work that we do in promoting the protection on international human rights standards throughout Australia and overseas.

A Footnote from the Vice President

As Vice President and on behalf of the ALHR National Committee and membership I would like to take this opportunity to thank Benedict for his amazing contributions as President over the past two years. Benedict has been a committed, transparent, collaborative and inclusive leader of the team and his passion for both ALHR and for human rights and the rule of law are a formidable and inspiring force! Benedict has continued to drive the change needed within ALHR, which was commenced by his eminent predecessor Nathan Kennedy, and ALHR is a more effective and efficient organisation as a result. We are all beyond pleased that moving forward Benedict will remain a highly valued member of the ALHR Executive Management Committee and will continue to be the Chair of ALHR’s Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee. I look forward to nominating as President with my esteemed colleague Jarrah Ekstein as Vice President. I hope to continue the fantastic momentum for advocacy and strong governance so well managed by the past two ALHR presidents.

With heart and humanity,

Benedict Coyne, President

Kerry Weste, Vice President

The ALHR Executive 

This past year ALHR has undergone a significant governance restructure with the establishment of the Executive Management Committee (EMC) comprising of the members of the ALHR Executive and elected Ordinary Members For Governance as an initiative to streamline the large workloads of ALHR’s National Committee. With the evolution of our national thematic subcommittees the National Committee has grown stronger with now 32 members from around the continent.

The creation of the EMC to manage the day-to-day governance of ALHR has created efficiencies for the eminent Chairs of our specialist thematic subcommittees and State and Territory Convenors to very much focus on human rights advocacy overseen by the EMC.

Our excellent treasurer, Katherine Hinton, has continued to do a stellar job on the finances as our paid membership has seen steady growth. It has been an incredible asset to ALHR to have a Chartered Accountant with over 20 years Finance experience who also has a strong interest in human rights and social justice. We are very grateful to Katherine for the time she so generously gives ALHR.

This past year it has also been very exciting for us to have former ALHR President Nathan Kennedy move into the role of Secretary. It is certainly very valuable to be able to maintain corporate knowledge in such an important and anchoring position on the Executive. The position of Secretary is a key role on the ALHR Executive. Our Secretary is not only essential to keeping the good ship ALHR organised and running smoothly, but also plays an important role in contributing to governance and ALHR’s engagement with the media. We are absolutely thrilled and very grateful to have received former President, Nathan Kennedy’s nomination to continue in the role for the coming year.  We know Nathan is as passionate about nurturing ALHR as we are and we very much look forward to the year ahead with such stellar colleagues on the Executive team.

We are likewise thrilled to receive the nomination of Jarrah Ekstein for the Vice Presidency. Jarrah has been on the ALHR National Committee since 2013 and as a NSW Convenor has been integral to ALHR’s work in New South Wales. Jarrah’s contributions to ALHR also go far above and beyond the work of a State and Territory convenor. Jarrah has consistently been a driving force for ALHR’s good governance and his displayed incredible passion toward the advancement of ALHR as the leading advocacy organisation for human rights in Australia. With the creation of the EMC, Jarrah has for the past twelve months been a most valued member of the EMC as an Ordinary Member for Governance. We cannot think of a better person to take up the role of Vice President.

ALHR Media

This financial year, for the second year in its history ALHR has contracted a paid media manager in order to significantly increase the public impact of our advocacy. Matt Mitchell of Hired Gun Media has kept us squarely in the news around the nations and even scored prime time spots on ABC’s 7.30 Report and Channel Ten’s The Project.

Our ability to engage a professional media manager, which we think is important to enhance and increase the impact of ALHR’s advocacy for human rights protection, has only been possible due to the revenue raised via the introduction of paid membership. The decision to use some of our very limited resources in this manner has certainly proven well worth its weight in gold with ALHR’s media presence significantly and consistently raised and diversified to include significant and targeted media reach including more prime time positions on radio and television and becoming a go-to source for journalists who want information on human rights issues.

2017 marked the first full year of media management for ALHR with a significant lift in media activity noted over the period. The year commenced with the first appraisal of federal, state and territory governments in regards to their human rights performance for the previous year. This was book-ended again at the end of 2017 with their performance in 2017. While the 2016 appraisal garnered some media attention, 2017 really saw significant growth with some new media players and audiences, including Buzzfeed News, rural radio media and Lawyers Weekly, focused on the issue.

ALHR was frequently quoted by media for supporting the marriage equality plebiscite, preemptive policing powers by NSW Police and an array of other issues including the ongoing detention of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island, the fight to decriminalise abortion in NSW, and the abuse of youths in detention including the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre in the ACT. More than 60 media releases were issued during the year to thousands of media contacts on a considerable amount of issues. While not every media outlet will run an ALHR angle, it’s critical that ALHR’s authority on human rights issues is relayed and promoted.

After promoting ALHR since November 2016 to media, 2017 saw opportunities bear fruit with media outlets such as The Project, ABC 730, Buzzfeed, Pedestrian etc. – who have younger, engaged audiences with a passion for human rights – interview and run coverage of ALHR’s viewpoints. Further, News Corporation mastheads stepped up their reportage of ALHR – favourably – in regards to several issues, but primarily the NSW Police preemptive policing initiative. News Corp reported on that issue in every single one of its daily mastheads, nationally. The ABC and Fairfax continue to be approached, and be receptive towards, ALHR messaging.

Cumulatively, ALHR achieved more than 150 separate media items of coverage for 2017 and reached an estimated 5 million + people through various media outlets. No negative media reportage of ALHR was noted during the period and media individually contacted were warm and receptive to ALHR and work undertaken.

2018 will see a continued focus on broadening the media reportage of ALHR to new media and non-traditional supporters, such as News Corporation mastheads, to ensure the reporting of human rights abuses and issues is carried outside of the traditional realm of the ABC and Fairfax. Long-standing supporters of ALHR, such as Lawyers Weekly, will continue to be a key ally and new avenues will be pursued for media appearances in television, radio and new media in particular. Key to surpassing the success of 2017 will be the identification and promotion of issues on which the media may not be aware. For example, call for submissions can flag some interesting new stories for media eg. The Australian Passports Amendment (Identity- matching Services) Bill that has the potential for wider reporting. With the rapid evaporation of investigative journalism, coupled with the audiences voracious thirst for news, it will be opportunities such as these which ALHR can spearhead and champion.

We originally tendered the position to a number of candidates and then offered a 6-month trial beginning October 2016 which has gone exceptionally well a we have extended further on subsequent 6-month contracts. We extend our sincere gratitude to Matt Mitchell of Hired Gun Media for his expert guidance and for his generosity in offering ALHR a rate it can afford and routinely working beyond his contracted hours on our behalf.


The past twelve months have seen our 8 specialist national thematic subcommittees continue to thrive grow and driving a very impressive output of advocacy in their respective nuanced areas (as further detailed in their reports below):

·      Business and Human Rights Subcommittee

·      Indigenous Rights Subcommittee

·      Disability Rights Subcommittee

·      LGBTI Rights Subcommittee

·      Refugee Rights Subcommittee

·      Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee

·      Freedoms Subcommittee

·      Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee

We introduced the national thematic subcommittees as an initiative to both enhance our advocacy impact and as a means of membership engagement via a co-chair management structure chaired by experts in their respective fields. We are thrilled and grateful for the ALHR members who have engaged with the subcommittees and contributed to the very important work that they do.

A focus on thematic human rights areas has:

  • Engaged ALHR members by allowing them to  concentrate on particular human rights issues thereby enabling ALHR to deliver a key promise to our paid membership to offer the opportunity to become an active part of ALHR’s voice on human rights issues and law reform throughout Australia;
  • Enabled ALHR to:
  • significantly increase the efficacy and impact of its advocacy through more refined and targeted strategic advocacy; and
  • attract high calibre advocates (including practicing & litigating lawyers, barristers, international human rights consultants and academics) in specific thematic fields to co-chair the various subcommittees thereby rapidly increasing the expertise and corporate knowledge and intellectual property of ALHR.

National Disability Rights Subcommittee  

Chaired by Susan Peukert (Adelaide, SA) & Natalie Wade (Adelaide, SA).

Sue and Natalie continued to be phenomenal co-chairs of the Disability Rights Subcommittee in the past year although we were sad to see Natalie step down. Nat has been an indefatigable and amazing asset to the ALHR Executive for many years providing much sage wisdom in terms of governance and advocacy. Natalie was always highly engaged in assisting with the management and strategic direction of ALHR and always participates in the key National Committee work required to ensure that ALHR’s success and strength as a collaborative organisation is maintained. She is a tremendous asset to ALHR. We wish Natalie all the best in her future endeavours and hope she may returned to the ALHR fold some day.

Once again in the past year the Disability Rights subcommittee has gone above and beyond time and again in the number of submissions and media releases it has produced. Sue donated much time travelling overseas to New Zealand to present at a conference on behalf of ALHR. We are incredibly grateful for this. Sue has been an invaluable member of the National Committee and has also devoted significant resources throughout the year including, but by no means limited to the following achievements:

  • Sue presented at the Disability Matters Conference held at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand on supported decision-making for persons with disabilities;
  • Chaired a Roundtable discussion at the Disability Policy Unit, (SA Government) on supported decision-making for persons with disabilities, where I discussed international best practice and the way forward for the South Australian government.
  • Media releases: Prisoners with disabilities; restraint of a child in an educational setting
  • Responses to the SA Mental Health Commission (response to a report it released), Federal Department of Social Services (supported employment) and UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (draft General Comment on Art 19 CRPD;
  • Drafted and Published Numerous ALHR Position Papers on the following topics: Inclusive education, violence and abuse of persons with disabilities, restrictive practices and consent, capacity and decision-making

Under Sue’s leadership the Disability Rights Subcommittee has continued to ensure that ALHR has shone a light on issues such as the rights of prisoners with a disability, the rights of students with a disability in the school system, the need for a royal commission into violence and abuse against people with a disability in the disability care sector and the right of deaf people to sit on juries.

We are incredibly pleased to see that Sue has nominated to continue in her role at the 2018 AGM and we look forward to working with her in the coming year.

National Freedoms Subcommittee 

Chaired by Dr Tamsin Clarke (Sydney, NSW)  

Dr Tamsin Clarke (Principal, Auron Consulting) has been a stellar standout in the past year with a profoundly impressive output of submissions and capacity for assisting in enhancing the governance and internal machinations of ALHR as illustrated by the comprehensive Report below. Tamsin has continued to produce a wealth of wonderful and exceptional work as Chair of the Freedoms subcommittee for which we are deeply grateful. This subcommittee has evolved to deal with any laws infringing upon civil and political rights. This year has seen a particular focus on advocating against legislative proposals that would see the further dissolution and diminution of civil liberties and the standing of the rule of law in Australia particularly in relation to legislative attacks on the freedom of expression of civil society organisations.  Tamsin innovatively led the field with regards to the clandestine Religious Freedoms Inquiry by teaming up with other civil society organisations and creating a template for submissions.

Major ALHR Submissions on which Tamsin has had substantial involvement during this period include:

  • the Marriage Equality Act,
  • the National Security review of:
  • Stop Search and Seize powers under the Crimes Act,
  • Offences relating to entering and remaining in ‘declared areas,’ and
  • Control orders under the Criminal Code and the High Risk Terrorist Offenders Act 201
  • he National Security response to the above review the Multiculturalism federal parliamentary inquiry;
  • Migration Act changes (including banning mobile phones in detention centres);
  • Amendments to the Commonwealth Criminal Code introducing criminal offences for impersonating Commonwealth entities;
  • Foreign Interference’ Electoral Reform;
  • Changes to National security legislation relating to ‘foreign interference’;
  • Foreign Interference Transparency Scheme Bill;
  • Religious Freedoms Inquiry;
  • Charities Inquiry;
  • Identity Matching and Robo-ministerial decisions.

Tamsin has spoken at Parliamentary Committees in relation to the  Religious Freedoms parliamentary inquiry, , and the Multiculturalism parliamentary inquiry.  She has presented at public forums in NSW Parliament House, New Theatre, Newtown, UWS and KWM on ‘foreign interference’ legislation  together with ALHR member Valerie Heath and with Hannah Ryan and Angela Chen from Human Rights Law Centre.

New subcommittee members include barristers Paul Jammy, who drafted a submission on Sexual Abuse Redress and reviewed and assisted with other submissions, and Valerie Heath, who was a key participant in all talks on the ‘foreign interference’ legislation.  New associate member Richard Frawley has also been active in assisting with key issues in relation to submissions on that legislation.

We would like to make a special acknowledgement of Tamsin for being a consistently substantial and highly valued contributor in relation to many other submissions produced by ALHR as well as to matters of internal policy and strategy. Tamsin is a drafting and proofreading genius and often steps in last minute to put the final polish and finishing touches on ALHR submissions and media releases. Tamsin’s input has been essential to ALHR’s good governance and the National Committee approvals process that ensures we produce very high-quality work in a timely manner. Tamsin has been a great support and is an absolutely invaluable member of the Committee.

National Refugee Rights Subcommittee 

Co-Chaired by Khanh Hoang (Canberra, ACT) and Scott Cosgriff (Sydney, NSW) 

Khanh Hoang (Senior Protection Assistant, UNHCR, Australia) and Scott Cosgriff (Senior Solicitor at the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS)) have continued their excellent impactful work with the subcommittee which continues to move from strength to strength and presently has 92 members. Khanh and Scott’s high degree of expertise and experience in the field of refugee rights has been invaluable in this extremely important and concerning human rights arena in Australia and the world. As co-chairs Scott and Khanh have been exemplary and have worked together as a well-oiled and remarkably brilliant team and have innovated exciting initiatives such as the first ALHR podcasts interviewing esteemed advocates in the field of Refugee Rights.

Under their leadership ALHR has produced extremely high-quality submissions, undertaken well-informed interactions with the media and engaged in important strategic advocacy. Khanh and Scott have consistently engaged in important strategic advocacy in the refugee rights space This work has included:

  • Significant contribution to ICCPR shadow report section on refugees and asylum seekers (led by Human Rights Law Centre and Refugee Council of Australia) as part of Australia’s Universal Periodic Review;
  • Advocacy around Australia’s ‘fast-track’ system for people seeking asylum known as the Legacy Caseload, including a benefit concert to raise money for the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) in Sydney.
  • Advocacy in relation to Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 which was eventually defeated in the Senate;
  • Ongoing engagement with media and public on refugee and asylum issues, including interviews with 4ZZZ and ABC Radio;
  • Guest speaker on a panel at the All We Can’t See art exhibition organised by Human Rights Watch Australia
  • Submissions to various inquiries including the Law Council’s Access to Justice Project, Department of Home Affairs’ Discussion Paper on Australia’s migrant intake and the Migration Amendment (Clarification of Jurisdiction) Bill 2018.
  • The development of position statements on various refugee related issues, including detention and offshore processing with more to follow;
  • The development of “the Refugee Brief” a podcast about refugee law and policy in Australia

There are many challenges ahead for the sector in 2018, not least the continuation of Australia’s offshore processing policies and the plight of those asylum seekers and refugees who form part of the “legacy caseload” who are eligible only for a temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visa. There are also many opportunities, including advocacy within the sector for a greater role for community sponsorship of refugees. The Subcommittee will continue to work together with members and the sector to promote the rights of people seeking asylum and refugees in Australia. 

Scott and Khanh consistently engage day-to-day business beyond their thematic area of responsibility and assist with the National Committee’s collaborative approvals process.  We are thrilled that Scott will continue to co-chair this exciting and vibrant subcommittee and while we are sad that Khahn will step down due to his new role at the UNHCR and PhD at the Kaldor Centre we are exceptionally happy to receive Khan’s nomination for one of the six (6) Ordinary Member positions on the ALHR Executive Management Committee.

National Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee 

Co-Chaired by Benedict Coyne (Brisbane, Qld) and Robin Banks (Hobart Tas)


Given that Australia is the only western liberal democracy and common law legal system without some form of a Bill of Rights or Human Rights Act, it must be ALHR’s focus to bring this issue into all human rights areas. Furthermore, as ALHR’s remit is the promotion and protection international human rights law (IHRL) standards and as Australia has signed and ratified but failed to fully implement the seven core IHRL treaties, it must be a core focus of ALHR to highlight this disparity (between Australian government rhetoric and reality) in its work.  Indeed, many United Nations Treaty Bodies have identified in the past year that the most efficient way the Australian government could remedy its IHRL recalcitrance and outstanding IHRL obligations is via implementing a federal human rights act post haste.

The Human Rights Act subcommittee was established in December 2014 by ALHR President Benedict Coyne with a view to reinvigorating the national campaign and dialogue for a federal human rights act in Australia. However, the work of the HRA subcommittee was soon subsumed in February 2015 into the co-leadership of a coalition of organisations campaigning for a Human Rights Act for Queensland. Three years later, and after a significant amount of energetic input by ALHR in lobbying politicians and guiding the #HumanRightsAct4Qld coalition with other organisations, that campaign has been remarkably successful (albeit a rather long journey) with Qld Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk at the State ALP conference in October 2016 committing to introducing a Queensland Human Rights Act based on a similar model to the 2006 Victorian Charter for Human Rights and Responsibilities.

In the past 12 months ALHR has continued to meet with the Qld Premier’s Office and senior members of Cabinet and back benchers and the Qld parliament cross bench to continue to move the momentum of the Premier’s promise and we are very excited about the prospect of the implementation of a Queensland Human Rights Act in the coming months. In the past 12 months, ALHR HRA Subcommittee has also continued working on:

  • The NSW Human Rights Act campaign with other excellent partner-organisations such as the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, AIA, etc :
  • The Tasmanian Human Rights Act campaign (with other excellent partner-organisations such as Civil Liberties Australia – Tasmanian Division, AIA, ALA, etc…) which led to the Tasmanian ALP adopting it as a policy on its state election platform:
  • A WA Human Rights Act campaign by ground-working and engaging with the McGowan government and senior influential figures in Western Australia to plant the seeds for human rights acts for Western Australia.

ALHR President Benedict Coyne has also continued the important work in promoting a federal Human Rights Act in the lead up to the next federal election including by the following:

  • ALHR initiated and co-hosted and national roundtable at GetUp in August 2017 with leading civil society organisations from around Australia to workshop practical steps for implementing and progressing a successful campaign.

Meeting and networking with important allies and stakeholders on this issue including:

Although Benedict is stepping down as ALHR President, he is very excited to be nominating as an Ordinary Member and Chair of the Human Rights Act Subcommittee as he still has business unfinished…

In additional related news, ALHR President Benedict Coyne and ALHR Victorian Co-Convenor Hector Sharp recently co-hosted an international roundtable with former Russian Fund Manager Bill Browder and other leading civil society organisations regarding the introduction of a Magnitsky Act in Australia to enable legislative power to freeze the assets/visas/travel of war criminals, human rights violators and corrupt officials. Benedict and Hector are continuing to work on and facilitate such campaign for Australia.

National Indigenous Rights Subcommittee

Co-Chaired by Dr Amy Maguire (Newcastle, NSW) and David Woodroffe (Darwin, NT) 

In the past 12 months Dr Amy Maguire (Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle (UON)) and David Woodroffe (Principal Legal Officer, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) have continued as the esteemed co-chairs of our Indigenous Rights Subcommittee.

We are very proud to congratulate David on being awarded a 2017 National Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), the Law Award which is awarded to an individual or an organisation with a track record in promoting and advancing human rights in Australia through the practice of law. David has made a significant contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights for Aboriginal people in the Top End of the Northern Territory as the Principal Legal Officer for NAAJA and he has worked closely with the Northern Territory Royal Commission to ensure that NAAJA, its clients and Aboriginal people in the Northern territory have a strong voice and the opportunity to participate fully in the Commission’s processes.

Amy has continued her brilliant media engagement and publications on topical human rights issues across multiple platforms. It has been wonderful to welcome two eminently qualified practitioners to such an incredibly vital subcommittee. We are thrilled to receive Amy’s nomination for another year Co-Chairing the Subcommittee. David will not be renominating but we take this opportunity to thank him for his contributions to ALHR and very much look forward to his ongoing mentorship on Indigenous rights issues as an engaged member of ALHR.

The human rights issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians should be a source of great shame to all Australians and ALHR must increase its voice and focus on standing up for the rights of Indigenous Australian’s and supporting ATSI led organisations to increase the impact of their advocacy. We are looking forward work hard in this very important area. 

Sadly David is stepping away after the AGM due to his significant work commitments. We are very pleased to be welcoming Johanna Bryne as a new co-chaor for the coming year. Johanna was admitted as a solicitor in 2017 in Western Australia and currently works at Rae & Partners Lawyers, Launceston in the commercial team. She was the National Indigenous Law Student of the Year in 2016.
Her interests in Human Rights originated prior to her studying law when she worked with vulnerable members of the community who were caught up within the criminal justice system.

We are equally pleased to also welcome Sonali Senevirante as a third co-chair for our Indigenous Rights Subcommittee. Somali is a lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright Australia with an  in-depth knowledge and expertise in biodiversity, Aboriginal cultural heritage, native title, administrative law, contamination and pollution law. Further, having previously worked as a prosecutor for the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), I assist clients respond to enforcement actions taken by various regulatory agencies. 

National Business & Human Rights Subcommittee

Co-Chaired by Madeleine Bridgett (Sydney, NSW) and Lauren Zanetti (Sydney, NSW)

Since launching in 2015, the Business and Human Rights Subcommittee, chaired by Madeleine Bridgett (Barrister, 6 St James Hall Chambers) and Lauren Zanetti (Senior Lawyer, Clayton Utz) has attracted a strong membership base, comprising over 70 lawyers, academics and law students, in Australia and beyond, with a keen interest in business and human rights issues. It has been another very busy year for the BHR Subcommittee, with lots of exciting projects completed and underway thanks to the excellent and energetic leadership of Lauren and Madeleine.

The BHR Subcommittee has been, and continues to be, highly active in advocating for implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Australia.  In particular, Lauren has done extensive work in advocating for the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act for Australia and a revamped and revised national OECD Contact Point.

A modern slavery team, comprising 15 members of ALHR’s BHR Sub-Committee, worked on comprehensive a written submission to the public Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act for Australia.

2017-2018 was a big year for the emerging area of business and human rights. Under Madeleine and Lauren’s leadership ALHR has produced a range high quality submissions and strategic advocacy in this space. This work has included major submissions to Government inquiries on ending Organ Trafficking, reforming the OECD National Contact Point and on supply chain transparency requirements for the proposed Commonwealth Modern Slavery Bill. In relation to each these issues, Madeleine and Lauren have also produced a range of media communications and attended government roundtables and stakeholder events, including a February forum at Parliament House, Canberra, where the Government committed to introducing a Commonwealth Modern Slavery Bill by mid 2018.

They are supported in this work by an engaged and vibrant Subcommittee, which currently has 96 members including barristers, lawyers and academics.

In addition, Madeleine and Lauren have led the Subcommittee’s work on ALHR’s submission on the Law Council of Australia’s Access to Justice Project and co-hosted an event in October 2018 on business and human rights litigation with Richard Hermer QC and Professor David Kinley. More recently they have provided feedback on the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry on the Rights of the Child.

We are thrilled that Madeleine and Lauren will continue to co-chair this exciting and vibrant subcommittee.

National LGBTI Rights Subcommittee 

Co-Chaired by Kathryn Cramp (Brisbane, QLD) and Nicholas Stewart (Sydney, NSW) 

The past 12 months has seen another verily vibrant and excellent year of a hyperactive LGBTI Rights Subcommittee under the erudite leadership of Kathryn Cramp (Lawyer, Queensland Migration Practice) and Nicholas Stewart (Partner, Dowson Turco Lawyers) who have been amazingly effective in a difficult year of trials, trolls and tribulations in the same sax marriage debate and plebiscite. They have worked together brilliantly to ensure that ALHR has consistently and passionately taken up many and varied opportunities to engage in media and advocacy on marriage equality, the rights of transgender Australians, IDAHOT Day, Safe Schools and much more. Kathryn and Nicholas have also been active and engaged members of the National Committee.

We also thank Nicholas and Kathryn for their proactive involvement in internal ALHR government as strongly engaged members of the ALHR EMC.  Some of their output over the past 12 months includes:

Drafted all or significant parts of submissions re:

  • Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017: After a long and exhausting campaign, the LGBTI Sub-Committee welcome the passage of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. Following our submission to the Select Committee on the Exposure Draft of the Marriage Amendment (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill we continue to note our objections to aspects of the Act, including changes to allow civil celebrants to register under a new religious category and allowing defence force chaplains to refuse service to LGBTI couples, and further exemptions to anti-discrimination principles for religious organisations allowing them to deny goods or services to LGBTI couples. ALHR continues to hold that position that in legislating to recognise the equality of LGBTI Australians, we cannot create new exemptions to anti-discrimination law without undermining the wider principle of fostering pluralism and tolerance as a means of promoting and preserving democracy. The LGBTI Sub-Committee offer special thanks to Freedoms Sub-Committee Chair, Dr Tamsin Clarke for providing substantial content to this submission.
  •  Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2018: The Queensland Government has sought feedback in relation to legislation proposing to remove forced divorce requirements for married members of the trans community seeking to update the gender markers on identity documents.

The Subcommittee also issued the following media release:

  • October 24, 2017 – Stop confusing the human right to civil marriage with religious marriage
  • August 30, 2017 – The Marriage Equality Postal Opinion Poll: Human rights lawyers throw their support behind NSW Law Society President
  • August 16, 2017 – Lawyers reject undemocratic postal opinion poll on the human rights issue of marriage equality
  • August 6, 2017 – Human Rights Lawyers applaud UN ruling on Australia’s same-sex divorce laws
  • October 9, 2017 – How a human rights viewpoint can help combat youth suicide

The ALHR LGBTI Sub-Committee is actively seeking members to assist with ALHR’s response to the National Children’s Commissioner following calls for submissions on Australia’s progress in implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. The ALHR LGBTI Sub-Committee also encourages transgender and intersex advocates to join or provide advice to the co-chairs to ensure direct representation.

National Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee

Co-Chaired by Dr Rita Shackel (Sydney, NSW) and Anna Kerr (Sydney, NSW) 

In the second year of the ALHR Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee things have been going from strength to strength under the excellent leadership of Dr Rita Shackel (Associate Professor of Law, USYD) and Anna Kerr (Principal and founder, Feminist Legal Clinic). The subcommittee has had a very vibrant and productive year with a multitude of submissions, events media releases and more. The subcommittee currently consists of approximately 60 ALHR members including legal practitioners, academics and students across Australia and some internationally.

Some of the Subcommittees output over the past twelve months includes:

Press releases

  • March 2017 – Human rights lawyers concerned reintroduction of Fred Nile “Zoe’s Law” will undermine women and girls’ rights
  • March 2017 – Human rights lawyers warn of crisis conditions in specialist domestic violence services for women and children
  • March 2017 – Queensland Government fails to deliver adequate protection in domestic violence cases. 
  • March 2017 – ALHR supports the introduction of exclusion zones in NSW to stop harassment at abortion clinics and calls for the decriminalisation of abortion§
  • April 2017 – Lawyers Condemn Outdated Statements of Malcolm’s Men As Reflecting a 1950’s View of Women.
  • May 2017 – It’s time to decriminalise abortion in NSW and protect human rights. Coverage with Lawyer’s Weekly podcast & article.
  • July 2017 –  NSW victims of crime compensation inadequate: domestic violence and sexual assault victims hardest hit.
  • July 2017 – difficulties faced by migrant women obtaining refuge accommodation. Coverage in the SMH and The Age.
  • August 2017 – Access to justice and the systemic disadvantage suffered by women as result of our expensive legal system.
  • November 2017 – NT Royal Commission: Human Rights Lawyers Slam Treatment of Girls in Juvenile Detention.
  • November 2017 – Australia’s Minister for Women must explain her support of Cory Bernadi’s anti-abortion White Ribbon Senate motion
  • February 2018 – Call for national funding and abortion decriminalisation in all Australian States and Territories.
  • February 2018 – Turnbull Government must publicly reject attacks within its ranks on the human rights of women and girls
  • February 2018 – Assistant Minister for Children Slammed as “Out of Touch with Children’s Rights”.
  • March 2018 – Turnbull Government must publicly reject attacks within its ranks on the human rights of women and girls.

 Submissions have included:

  • Contribution to ALHR Modern Slavery Act in Australia submission.
  • Contribution to NGO Coalition shadow report to the UN Committee on Economic and Social Rights.
  • Contribution to submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry into the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Submission to the UN Rapporteur for Cultural Rights who was conducting an inquiry into the impact of fundamentalism on women.
  • Submission made to the Attorney General’s Department re Family Law Amendment Bill
  • Submission to Queensland Law Reform Commission: Review of termination of pregnancy laws in Queensland

Other Events & Activities

  • hosted an “Evening in Conversation with Dr Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.”
  • attended Maurice Blackburn Women’s breakfast.
  • jointly supervised research project by La Trobe students into a Universal Basic Incom
  • attended the AHRC for launch of Children’s Rights Report
  • attended CEDAW Consultation meetings hosted by Office for the Status of Women.
  • Investigated options for human rights complaint or inquiry in relation to treatment of women and girls in detention on Nauru.

Anna and Rita’s strong ALHR Member engagement and their strategic planning of the subcommittees future work has been exemplary with bi-monthly meeting dates fixed for the coming year and plans to set up working groups in the areas of Violence against women, Reproductive rights; and Labour rights/pay inequality. We are thrilled they are both re-nominating as co-chairs of the subcommittee and we are very much looking forward to what we anticipate will be a significant year for the WGR Subcommittee and to having Rita and Anna on the National Committee.

ALHR State & Territory Committees

Importantly we also acknowledge the very hard work of ALHR’s many excellent state and territory convenors. Over the past year the ALHR State and Territory Committees have held successful educative events for both the legal profession and the general public, made submissions to parliamentary inquiries, appeared at parliamentary committee inquiries on behalf of ALHR and conducted media on state-based issues. The State and Territory Co-Convenors have done a wonderful job providing further avenues for member engagement by becoming involved with the State and Territory ALHR Committees.

Over the course of 2017-2018 ALHR has (re)-expanded its national reach with the continued vibrant activity of a number of State and Territory Committees including the excellent work of our amazing ACT Convenor Sangeeta Sharmin and our WA co-convenors Megan Healy and Verity Long-Droppert who have made significant advances in planting seeds for a WA Human Rights Act campaign in partnership with the ALHR Human Rights Act Subcommittee.  However, we are sad to see the departure of Verity who is off to pursue her professional sporting career and aspirations and we wish her all the best for the future.

At the Top End we have also seen the departure of our fabulous former NT Co-Convenor Rachana Rajan who has been replaced by the very impressive John Birrell, Senior Solicitor in the Civil Section of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA).

It has been equally sad to see the departure of a long-term and excellent former Tasmanian Co-Convenor and then Victorian Co-Convenor Adam Gregory who set off for foreign lands and we thank him profoundly for his years of excellent work with ALHR and wish him all the best for a bright future.

In Victoria we have seen former war-correspondent-cum-corporate-lawyer step up as a Victorian Co-Convenor and highly valuable member of the ALHR National Committee and our first ALHR Media Spokesperson on International Humanitarian Law and the Laws of War. Hector has had some fabulous articles and media releases published on behalf of ALHR in the past 12 months. We have also welcomed another excellent Victorian Co-Convenor Fia Hamid-Walker and we thank Fia for her consistent contribution throughout the year.

We are very excited to welcome the recently appointed Qld Co-Convenor Inez Botta-Stanwell (Graduate Lawyer, Allens Linklater)  who will be teaming up with ALHR President Benedict Coyne to re-invigorate the Qld Committee in the

We would also like to make special acknowledgement the time and effort contributed by longstanding NSW Co-convenor and National Committee member, Jarrah Ekstein, toward the internal governance of ALHR. Jarrah is consistently engaged in assisting with the day-to day operations of ALHR’s work at a national level and we value her significant contributions to the organisation over many years. We are delighted to receive Jarrah’s nomination ALHR Vice-President for the coming year.

This year, for the second time, ALHR issued National Report Cards on Australia’s human rights performance for 2017 for all State and Territory Governments. This was a fantastic initiative by our Marvelous Media Manager Matt Mitchell for which we received numerous media inquiries and exposure and it is one that we intend to continue each year as a useful way in which to engage the media on local issues and highlight the major human rights challenges in each jurisdiction.

We thank all the State and Territory Co-Convenors for their hard work and encourage all our ALHR Members to actively seek out the members in your state or territory, hold regular meetings and events and engage in strategic advocacy to actively pursue the protection of human rights on a state and territory level.

ALHR Human Rights Advocacy Subject at La Trobe University Law School

During 2017 a selection of ALHR’s National Committee members supervised the work of La Trobe Law School students in the ALHR Human Rights Advocacy course. Students enrolled in the course were able to undertake research projects on behalf of ALHR in return for academic credit. This work has provided some useful resources to ALHR and importantly mentors the next generation of human rights advocates. We thank Dr Emma Henderson from La Trobe who teaches the subject and of course we thank Kerry Weste, Benedict Coyne, Hector Sharp, Natalie Wade, Khanh Hoang, and Anna Kerr all of who generously donated significant time and their valuable expertise to this task on a purely voluntary basis.

We look forward to our future collaborations toward the promotion and protection of human rights and the nurture of the next generation of human rights advocates!

Discharging Presidential Responsibilities

It has been yet another absolutely inspiring, riveting, innovating and exciting pleasure to spend another year working with such an brilliant, bright team of dedicated, compassionate and considerate people of the ALHR Executive, EMC and National Committee over the past year. It is a great pleasure to team-work with such a horizontal, considered, caring and ego-less collegiate community and I feel blessed by and for the experience. Once again, I have never seen ALHR thriving and buzzing to the level that it is and the organisation continues to move from strength to strength.

I have attended many events around Australia over the past year as an ALHR representative to keynote at conferences and to speak on various human rights topics at different conferences, panels and events including, but not limited to, the following:

  • April 2017 – April 2018: Queensland Human Rights Act Campaign:
  • Attendance at multiple periodic meetings of the core QLD Human Rights Act organising coalition;
  • Attendance at multiple meetings with the Qld Premier’s Office Ministers of Parliament, members of cabinet, back benchers, cross-benchers;
  • July 2017 – present: Continued as an ALHR representative in the following:
  • Visiting Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) International Law and Global Governance Institute;
  • November 2017: Practitioner in Residence at Southern Cross University (SCU) Law School, Coolangatta Campus.
  • ALHR representative for engagement in flagship project at University of Queensland Global Change Institute The project – ‘We Are The People From That Land: Centring Indigenous peoples’ rights in the transition to a sustainable, low carbon future’ – will explore the international Indigenous movement that is re-imagining human rights and social and economic development in the global era of scarce water resources, climate change and energy transition:
  • Ongoing consultative engagement as a member of:
  • The Grata Fund (Public Interest Litigation Fund) Advisory Council in Sydney
  • The Digital Rights Watch Advisory body;
  • July 2017:  Presentation to La Trobe Law School Human Rights Advocacy Course on the origins and advocacy work of ALHR as well as ALHR’s leadership in the campaign for a Queensland Human Rights Act and a Federal Human Rights Act;
  • 17 August 2017: ALHR Delegate at The Australia Institutes “Accountability and the Law” Conference at Parliament House Canberra discussing the introduction of a Federal Anti-Corruption Body. ALHR is also a signatory to the Open Letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull requesting the introduction of a federal anti-corruption watchdog:
  • 18 August 2017: Benedict hosted a national Federal Rights Roundtable at GetUp, Sydney, with leading civil society organisations from around Australia to workshop practical steps for implementing and progressing a successful campaign for a federal Human Rights Act in the lead up to the next federal election.
  • 9-20 October 2017: Keynote speech at the 2017 Environment and Planning Law Association (NSW) Annual Conference on the topic of “Re-greening rights – indigeneity, climate change and a timely re-confluence of human rights and the environment” (Available: );
  • 7 December 2017: Attendance at the invite only 1-day annual Attorney General’s Department NGO Forum on Human Rights held at the Australian Human Rights Commission Sydney and which discussed a plethora of issues related to the multiple appearances by the Australian government delegations before UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies in the past year in Geneva;
  • 8 February 2018: Attendance at the invite only 1-day annual DFAT Human Rights NGO Roundtable at the National Museum Canberra where Australia’s election to UN Human Rights Council was discussed amongst a vibrant room of about 200 government delegates and civil society leaders with an address by the Foreign Minister the Hon. Julie Bishop MP;
  • April 2018: Appointed a judge for the 2017 Lawyers Weekly National Partner of the Year Competition;
  • 19 April 2018: Debater for the Affirmative team (with EDO Qld CEO Jo-Anne Bragg, and GetUp Campaigner Ellen Roberts) at the Annual EDO (Comedy) Justice Debate on the theme of “Things are hotting up!” against retired Supreme Court Judge Alan Wilson QC, former President of the Queensland Court of Appeal Margaret McMurdo AC and Judge of the District Court of Queensland Sandy Horneman-Wren SC moderated by Stephen Keim SC and held at the Ian Hanger Recital Auditorium, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University.
  • 24 April 2018: Publicly launching an auspicious event on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2018, in collaboration with ALHR and the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) at Federation University Australia, to celebrate and to honour ANZAC hero, Gallipoli survivor and international human rights champion, Colonel William Roy Hodgson who was one of the 8 drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in this very auspicious year of the 70th anniversary of the UDHR and the final year of the Centenary of ANZAC.
  • 26 April 2018: Speaker at ALHR and United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) Young Professionals event on “Human Rights and Mass Sporting Events” in the wake of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games held at Griffith University Southbank Campus.

Since Matt has come on board we have been approached by an abundance of national and international media (newspapers, radio and television) to comment on important human rights issues and we have secured a number of highly sought-after prime time spots including on Channel 10s The Project, ABC 730 and we have continued our persistent efforts to get Benedict on ABCs Q&A.

Vice-Presidential Accolades

Once again, I would like to express my sincere and profound gratitude for the brilliant dedication and very excellent committed work of my wonderful colleague ALHR Vice President Kerry Weste, without whom I fear the roaring empathy engines of ALHR would cease to function or would certainly not function at the amazingly optimal level at which they have been this past year. Kerry’s energy and organisational erudition has continued to be crucial in the past 12 months. I am extremely excited that Kerry will be stepping up to take on the cudgels of the Presidency in the coming year(s) and I am deeply confident that the organisation will be in the best hands including with the brilliant Jarrah Ekstein as Vice-President. Kerry’s demonstrated consistent commitment to ALHR, her expert knowledge in many key areas of human rights law as well as her knowledge of ALHR governance and her patient, professional, and always helpful demeanor makes her an absolute pleasure to work with and a very valuable asset for our national association of human rights lawesomeness.

In Closing

We share the passion and belief held by our many past Presidents and Vice-Presidents that ALHR is an extremely important organisation for Australia, the Australian legal profession and all Australian people as both individuals and collectives. With socio-political crises befalling us on multiple fronts, we are presently experiencing a low-point in human rights promotion and protection by the Australian federal government which is why our work is so crucial especially our educative work. It is sadly surprising how diminished the education levels of the Australian people (including and especially our politicians and members of the legal profession) are with regards to basic standards of human rights, international human rights law and Australia’s proud central involvement in its origins and development.

A core tenet of ALHR’s remit is education and education is the panacea for so many of society’s ills. This is why having legislated human rights protections of basic universally recognised human rights (include via the implementation of Human Rights Acts and Charters) is so crucial, because law informs how we act as individual in society. Law educates us all as to what are acceptable standards of behaviour in society. Being a legal association enables us the privileged and responsibility of being a strategic voice to influence what those standards should be for a civilised country such as Australia. However, we cannot do it without our members. The more members we have, the stronger our voice. We would like to see our membership at least double over the coming year (to 1,500 paying members) and we need your help to achieve this.

ALHR’s status is continuing a very strong upwards trajectory of positive and progressive growth and advocacy impact throughout Australia and internationally. ALHR is recognised as a leading Australian human rights law organisation. We are now called upon directly by governments of Australia to respond to various legislative proposals and we are invited along to exclusive legal events as a valuable and knowledgeable voice on human rights in Australia. Journalists are now utilising us as a source of authoritative comment.

These are very exciting times, and we encourage you all to embrace the buzz, get involved and encourage your legal colleagues to join ALHR to create a stronger, louder, more impactful voice for human rights to be promoted, protected and respected throughout Australia and the world.

With heart and humanity

Benedict Coyne – outgoing President

Kerry Weste – incoming President and former Vice President

30 April 2018