ALHR President and Vice President’s Report April 2016 – April 2017
We are very pleased, honoured and excited to provide our first ALHR annual President and Vice President’s Report.
We were both incredibly fortunate to take up our positions following a stellar two years of growth for ALHR under the brilliant leadership of Nathan Kennedy. During our first year in these roles we have also been very fortunate to be supported by a National Committee of 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 the impact of our work both locally, nationally and internationally.
We have both been involved with ALHR for the past half-decade, so it is a great source of pride 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 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.
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.
Benedict Coyne, President Kerry Weste, Vice President
The ALHR Executive
This past year ALHR welcomed a tremendous new treasurer, Katherine Hinton. The preceding 2 years in particular have seen immense change in the governance of this organisation and Katherine, who came on board in early 2016, has been an important asset and source of support as ALHR navigates the growth of its paid membership and the best strategic use of its limited financial resources. We are very happy indeed to see that Katherine is renominating for the position of ALHR Treasurer at the 2017 AGM.
Sadly we will be farewelling our Secretary Scott Calnan following the AGM. Over the past two years Scott has not only been an excellent secretary, his significant expertise in international human rights law has been a very highly valued resource for the National Committee, particularly when determining how ALHR should engage in controversial issues and subject-matter. We extend our most sincere thanks to Scott for his willingness to assist and his many and varied contributions to ALHR’s work. 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 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 replace Scott as the ALHR Secretary at the 2017 AGM. 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.
This financial year for the first time in its history ALHR has contracted a paid media manager in order to significantly increase the public impact of our advocacy. Our ability to do so 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.
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 extend our sincere thanks 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. We are very excited to announce that we will be extending Matt’s contract for a further 6 months from April 2017.
The past twelve months have seen the National Committee grow significantly in number as ALHR embraces and expands the use of thematic national subcommittees (including as a means of membership engagement) and adopts a co-chair management structure for those subcommittees as an efficient and accountable means to improve the impact of our advocacy. ALHR now has a total of eight (8) national thematic subcommittees, including:
- Refugee Rights Subcommittee
- Disability Rights Subcommittee
- Freedoms Subcommittee
- Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee
- Indigenous Rights Subcommittee
- Business and Human Rights Subcommittee
- LGBTI Rights Subcommittee
- Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee
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.
It has also 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 Natalie Wade
Natalie Wade has continued to be a phenomenal chair of the Disability Rights Subcommittee. In 2016, Natalie was both awarded the Law Society of South Australia Gray Young Lawyers of the Year Award and named the Law Council of Australia’s Young Lawyer of the Year – incredibly well-deserved accolades for a truly inspiring, energetic, erudite and generous operator. Natalie’s subcommittee has gone above and beyond time and again in the number of submissions and media releases it has produced.
Natalie has donated much time travelling around Australia and appearing as a speaker on behalf of ALHR. We are incredibly grateful for this. She has published articles and been an invaluable member of the National Committee in terms of providing referrals and advice to members of the public who contact us directly for assistance. She has also devoted significant resources to teaching and supervising La Trobe Law School students undertaking the Human Rights Advocacy subject.
Under her leadership the Disability Rights Subcommittee has ensured 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.
violence and abuse against people with a disability in the disability care sector and the right of deaf people to sit on juries. Natalie also made very significant contributions to the success of the first ALHR National Human Rights Conference and has been a key voice in supporting advocacy efforts to address the Imprisonment and indefinite detention of people with a cognitive impairment and its particular disproportionate impact on Indigenous Australians.
Natalie has also been 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 are incredibly pleased to see that Natalie has nominated for one of the six (6) Ordinary Member positions on the ALHR National Committee at the 2017 AGM. Moving forward as we address the structural issues raised by the growth in ALHR it is envisaged that these roles will be absolutely fundamental to ALHR’s good governance and we are honoured that Natalie is willing to make this commitment to ALHR.
National Freedoms Subcommittee
Chaired by Dr Tamsin Clarke
Dr Tamsin Clarke (Principal and Owner, Auron Consulting) continues to produce a wealth of wonderful and exceptional work as chair of the Freedoms subcommittee. 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 renewed attacks on the protections offered by section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, as well as on privacy and data retention issues and religious freedom.
Tamsin innovatively created a template for submissions to the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Freedom of Speech which enabled organisations and stakeholders less accustomed to the drafting of formal submissions to ensure their perspective on race hate speech was put before the Inquiry.
For the better part of the past year Tamsin has also acted in the role of chair of our Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee since Benedict has stepped into the role of president. We would like to make a special acknowledgement of her 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. It is fantastic that Tamsin has also nominated for one of the six (6) Ordinary Member positions at the 2017 AGM.
National Refugee Rights Subcommittee
Co-Chaired by Khahn Hoang & Rebecca Dowd
Khanh Hoang (Associate Lecturer the ANU Migration Law Program/ UNSW PhD Candidate) and Rebecca Dowd (Senior Policy & Programs Officer, Multicultural SA) became co-chairs of ALHR’s Refugee Rights Subcommittee in June 2016. The subcommittee has continued to move from strength to strength and presently has 92 members.
Khahn and Rebecca’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 our first co-chairs sharing leadership of a subcommittee, Rebecca and Khanh have been exemplary and have worked together as a well-oiled and remarkably brilliant team.
Under their leadership ALHR has produced extremely high quality submissions, undertaken well-informed interactions with the media and engaged in important strategic advocacy. This work has included a submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants; a submission and oral evidence before the Senate Inquiry into serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru Regional Processing Centre, and any like allegations in relation to the Manus Regional Processing Centre; and contributing to ALHR’s recent submission on the DFAT Foreign Policy White Paper. Most recently they have worked hard to ensure that ALHR’s has been able to contribute to a NGO shadow report with respect to Australia’s 5th report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Khanh and Rebecca have also engaged in important strategic advocacy in the refugee rights space including drafting letters to the Immigration and/or Foreign Ministers of New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Germany, urging them to resettle refugees from Manus Island and Nauru urging assistance for asylum seekers indefinitely detained on Manus and Nauru. Khanh and Rebecca also wrote to cross-bench Senators urging them to oppose the Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 and have lobbied State governments to fund and introduce asylum seeker legacy caseload initiatives such as that introduced in Victoria.
Khanh and Rebecca have donated their time and expertise to supervising students undertaking the Human Rights Advocacy subject at La Trobe University and also put in a great deal of time and effort toward ensuring the success of the inaugural ALHR National Human Rights Conference. They 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 they will continue to co-chair this exciting and vibrant subcommittee and we are exceptionally happy to receive Khan’s nomination for one of the six (6) Ordinary Member positions on the ALHR National Committee.
National Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee
Co-Chaired by Benedict Coyne, Tamsin Clarke and Robin Banks
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. Twenty-six months 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 with the Qld government committing in late 2016 to introducing a Queensland Human Rights Act based on a similar model to the 2006 Victorian Charter for Human Rights and Responsibilities. ALHR has recently helped launch campaigns for human rights acts in Western Australia, Tasmania as well as federally and we are also hoping to build momentum in NSW and the NT in the coming year.
Robin Banks (former Tasmanian Anti- Discrimination Commissioner,) has recently been appointed co-chair of the Human Rights Act(s) Subcommittee. Robin is also a former Secretary of ALHR. It is wonderful to have her back on board and we are very excited about the reinvigoration of the subcommittee as we embark on campaigns to ensure the Queensland Government delivers on its promise of a human rights act and campaign for similar promises in WA, Tasmania and NSW. As the only western democracy 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.
With her long history involvement with ALHR and its National Committee and her senior level of experience as a practitioner, Robin will be a huge asset to ALHR. We are excited to have her nominations.
National Indigenous Rights Subcommittee
Co-Chaired by Dr Amy Maguire and David Woodroffe
During the year ALHR welcomed 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) as co-chairs of our Indigenous Rights Subcommittee. Since coming on board Amy and David have relaunched the subcommittee and received expressions of interest from 50 lawyers, law students and academics. They have also engaged in media on behalf of ALHR including comment on the shocking Western Australian Coroner’s findings regarding the 2014 death in custody of 22-year-old Yamatji woman, Ms Dhu. Amy and David have also provided valuable input into many and varied ALHR submissions where issues have arisen with regards to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It has been wonderful to welcome two eminently qualified practitioners to such an incredibly vital subcommittee. 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 to being able to do so under Amy and David’s expert guidance.
National Business & Human Rights Subcommittee
Chaired by Amy Sinclair
Since launching in 2015, the Business and Human Rights Subcommittee, chaired by Amy Sinclair (Business and Human Rights Consultant) 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 a busy year for the BHR Subcommittee, with lots of exciting projects completed and underway thanks to the excellent and energetic leadership of chair Amy Sinclair.
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, Amy has done extensive work in advocating for the adoption of a National Action Plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles. In May 2016, Amy participated in a Civil Society Roundtable meeting led by the Australian Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Law Centre in preparation for the public consultations. In October 2016, Amy travelled to Geneva to attend the annual UN Human Rights Council’s Forum on Business and Human Rights.
A modern slavery team, comprising 15 members of ALHR’s BHR Sub- Committee, is currently working on a written submission to the public Inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act for Australia.
Amy has taken the BHR Subcommittee from strength to strength and we are sad to see her stepping down. We would like to thank her for the incredibly valuable contribution she has made to ALHR’s engagement sin the business and human rights space.
We look forward to welcoming new co-chairs to the ALHR national BHR Subcommittee.
National LGBTI Rights Subcommittee
Co-Chaired by Nicholas Stewart and Kathryn Cramp
Since joining as co-chairs of the LGBTI Rights Subcommittee early in 2016, Nicholas Stewart (Partner, Dowson Turco Lawyers) and Kathryn Cramp (Lawyer, Queensland Migration Practice) have been amazingly effective in a relatively short period of time. 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 for his assistance on issues outside his thematic area of responsibility, including regarding governance issues and with drafting the contract for our media manager, and initiating and co-drafting letters to congratulate newly appointed High Court judges and much more.
National Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee
Co-Chaired by Claire Hammerton, Dr Rita Shackel & Anna Kerr
This year ALHR was incredibly pleased to launch a Women and Girls’ Rights Subcommittee under the leadership of the former chair of our Refugee Rights Subcommittee, Claire Hammerton. Claire did an amazing job in getting the subcommittee off the ground and we were very sad to see her have to step down due to work and PhD commitments. We would like to acknowledge the very significant contribution Claire made during her time as a member of the ALHR National Committee, not only in her thematic areas of responsibility but in her expert contributions toward the development of improved strategic advocacy, media engagement and fundraising. We wish Claire the very best and know that she will make significant contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights throughout her career.
ALHR has been incredibly fortunate to recently secure two very highly esteemed new co-chairs to lead the work of the WGR Subcommittee, Dr Rita Shackel (Associate Professor of Law, USYD) and Anna Kerr (Principal and founder, Feminist Legal Clinic). The subcommittee currently consists of 55 practitioners, academics and students across Australia and some internationally.
There was an excellent response to the call for members when Rita and Anna came on board in March; with approximately 20 new members joining the subcommittee.
Anna and Rita have certainly hit the ground running and we could not be more excited about the work they have contributed in a little more than a month. They have provided several media releases about responses to domestic violence and threats to domestic violence services for women and children as well as about Fred Nile “Zoe’s Law”, and the Federal Government’s concerning submission to the Fair Work Commission on low paid workers. They also contributed to ALHR’s submission on the DFAT Foreign Policy White Paper.
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 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.
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 2016 ALHR has (re)-expanded its national reach with the resurrection of a number of State and Territory Committees including the wonderful new ACT Convenor Sangeeta Sharmin and new WA co-convenors Verity Long-Droppert and Megan Healy. joining the National Committee and the NT becoming much more active and engaged with the wonderful Rachana Rajan, Clare McKenzie and Jackie Antoun co-convening. These have been very welcome developments. We congratulate Esther Pearson SA Convenor, Adam Gregory, Hector Sharp and Andrew Milhouse Vic co-convenors, Anastasia Krivenkova, Holly Ritson and Jarrah Ekstein, NSW co-convenors, Nicole Sommer and Amelia Higgs Tasi co-convenors. We welcome very new QLD co- convenors Nirupama Sivakumar and Elliott Dolan-Evans as QLD co-convenors.
We also take this opportunity to thank co-convenors Pree Sharma and Kate Marchesi from QLD who are stepping down. Pree and Kate consistently made highly valued contributions to ALHR’s work in their home state and were reliable, active and engaged members of the National committee. 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 making the first ALHR National Human Rights Conference a success. Jarrah is also 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 for one of the six (6) Ordinary Member roles on the ALHR National Committee for 2017. This year ALHR issued National Report Cards on Australia’s human rights performance for 2016 forall State and Territory Governments. This was a fantastic initiative by our 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.
The Inaugural 2017 ALHR National Human Rights Conference
On 17 and 18 February 2017 ALHR held its inaugural National Human Rights Conference at the La Trobe University city campus in Melbourne. In its over 23 years of existence, ALHR had not held a national human rights conference and it was largely due to the valuable relationship ALHR has established over the past few years with La Trobe University Law School (LTLS) in Melbourne who hosts the ALHR national Secretariat. It was wonderful to be able to hold the first ALHR Conference at the home of our principal supporter and Secretariat. Without the generous sponsorship provided by La Trobe the conference could not have gone ahead.
We particularly acknowledge LTLS Dean, Professor Patrick Keyzer’s, support as head of the law school and the amazing and enthusiastic support from ALHR Secretariat staff member Randa Rafiq. Without Randa’s consistent hard work and dedication the conference would not have offered the excellent experience that it did to our delegates and speakers. We thank also Pitcher Partners and Ashurst for their generous sponsorship.
The sold out conference provided a unique and valuable platform to promote international human rights and rule of law in Australia. We were honoured to host our many eminent speakers who delivered incredibly practical and interesting sessions that will assist and inform us all in our continued efforts to advocate for human right protections both within Australia and in the new global political environment.
We cannot overstate the importance of bringing together leaders in law, academia and the community sectors to strengthen the vital links between us to protect human rights nationally and generate an ongoing dialogue on human rights issues that impact all Australians.
The ALHR conference certainly generated much buzz amongst the speakers and delegates and looks set to become one of the premier annual events on legal calendar. We are very much looking forward to the ALHR conference continuing next year and for many years into the future!
On 17 July 2015 ALHR launched our secretariat at La Trobe Law School. It has been of great assistance to have someone who can answer our phone, and provide assistance for referrals, and we thank Randa Rafiq for her excellent efforts in doing so. She often handles enquiries from people facing very difficult circumstances and always does so professionally and courteously.
During 2016 a selection of ALHR’s subcommittee chairs travelled to La Trobe to teach students undertaking the Human Rights Advocacy course and then provided ongoing supervision of students research projects undertaken 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 Natalie Wade, Amy Sinclair, Claire Hammerton, Khanh Hoang, and Rebecca Dowd, all of who generously donated significant time and their valuable expertise to this task on a purely voluntary basis.
Discharging Presidential Responsibilities
It has been an absolute inspiring and riveting pleasure to work with such an excellent team of dedicated, compassionate and considerate people over the past year. I have never seen ALHR thriving and buzzing to the level that it is. I have attended many events around Australia over the past year as an ALHR representative to keynote and speak on various human rights topics at different conferences, panels and events including, but not limited to, the following:
- April 2016 – April 2017: Attendance at multiple periodic meetings of the core QLD Human Rights Act organising coalition
- 6-7 June 2016: Attending 2-day Australian Progress Leadership Conference at Old Parliament House, Canberra, with leaders from the top 200 Australian civil society organisations to map out the next 30 years of Australian socio- political progressive developments
- 21 July 2016: James Cook University Legal Studies Conference Townsville, QLD: Delivering keynote speech entitled “Human Rights for Human Wrongs: A History of International Human Rights in Australia And What Of The Future?” to 300 high school students from 30 high schools
- 25 July 2016: 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
- 12 July 2016: Speaker on Abortion Decriminalisation Panel at Undumbi Room, Queensland Parliament House
- 4 August 2016: Delivery of the formal dinner speech on “My Origins of and Motivations for Becoming a Human Rights Lawyer” at Southern Cross University Michael Kirby Lecture Series presented by Walter Sofronoff QC
- 7 August 2016: Speech and presentation of Social Impact Award to The Legal Forecast QUT Disrupting Law “Access to Justice” Hackathon
- 11 August 2016: Speaker on Human Rights Panel at Premiere of “Hard to Believe” documentary on forced organ harvesting of political prisoners in China
- 16 August 2016: Host and MC of Queensland Parliament Abortion Decriminalisation Lunchtime Event Panel for QLD MPs
- 4 September 2016: Presentation to Amnesty International Qld Group on “The Case for Abortion decriminalisation in Queensland”.
- 14 September 2016: Presentation on “The discriminatory implications of s 216 Qld Criminal Code and the case for change”, Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI) Rights Denied Forum Symposium
- 12-13 October 2016: Multiple Presentations to Michel Forste and team, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, at Allens Linklater Brisbane on the situation of human rights defenders in Queensland.
- 19 October 2016: Presentation on Indigenous Rights and Climate Litigation at QLD University of Technology (QUT) Climate Litigation Symposium
- 25 October 2016: Speech on “Human Rights Law and Why I practice” at ‘Eddie Fy’ Edmund Rice International Dinner
- 3 November 2016: Guest Lecture to Bond University Law School Human Rights Unit
- 29 November 2016: Attending meeting of the Grata Fund (Public Interest Litigation Fund) in Sydney
- 3 February 2017: Attendance at the invite-only Law Council of Australia Death Penalty Abolition Symposium at Monash University Law Chambers, Melbourne (on the 50th Anniversary of Execution by Hanging of Ronald Ryan, the last Australian executed)
- 9 February 2017: Attendance at the invite only 1-day annual DFAT Human Rights NGO Roundtable at the National Museum Canberra where Australia’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council was discussed inter alia and the government’s commitment to OPCAT ratification was announced by Attorney General George Brandis
- 10 February 2017: Appearing before the federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Freedom of Speech Inquiry at Queensland Parliament House to give evidence on ALHR’s submission regarding the retention of section 18C
- 17 -18 February 2017: Attendance at, hosting of, and provision of opening speech for the inaugural ALHR National Human Rights Conference at La Trobe Law School City Campus, Melbourne
- 3 – 17 March 2017: Appointed a judge for the 2017 Lawyers Weekly National Partner of the Year Competition
- 20 March 2017: Keynote speech at Griffith University & QAI Human Rights Forum “Walk the Talk: Realising the 2010-2020 National Disability Strategy and our human rights promises”, Brisbane Convention Centre (My speech was delivered in the opening session with federal Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Alistair McEwin, federal Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Ed Santow, Qld Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Mr Kevin Cocks AO)
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 Radio National and Channel 10.
I am tremendously grateful to the incredible, dedicated, inspired and very excellent consistent 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 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 an indispensable asset for our association. Kerry’s energy and organisational erudition was crucial in the logistics of ALHR’s inaugural conference. I am very excited about re-nominating with Kerry.
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 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.
Benedict Coyne, President Kerry Weste, Vice President