Honouring A Forgotten National ANZAC Human Rights Hero: Celebrating ANZAC Centenary & 70th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

April 24, 2018

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) President Benedict Coyne announced this morning that during this very auspicious final year in the centenary of ANZAC and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ALHR and the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) at Federation University Australia will co-host an event on international Human Rights Day, 10 December 2018, to Honour ANZAC hero, Gallipoli survivor and human rights champion, Colonel William Roy Hodgson.

“Colonel William Roy Hodgson is a forgotten ANZAC hero and international human rights hero of whom we should be immensely proud, especially as Australia now sits on the United Nations Human Rights Council. Hodgson landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and his commanding officer subsequently praised his ‘great gallantry’ in a position of ‘great risk and responsibility’. Hodgson was wounded in the hip joint by a sniper and was reported dead. He was able to read his own obituary, while going on to survive numerous operations in Egypt and England which left him with one leg considerably shorter than the other, necessitating the use of a walking-stick. Hodgson was a war veteran and a person with disability.

“In 1916, Hodgson was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec palme and later invalided back to Australia. Undeterred by his physical disability, Hodgson became an international diplomat and in 1948 represented Australia as one of the eight member multi-cultural, multi-ideological and multi-religious committee drafting part of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt at the newly established United Nations. Hodgson had a significant impact on one of the most famous and influential documents in global history. He argued passionately for a World Court of Human Rights to accompany the declaration, asking “what was the point in having rights if you could not enforce them?”

The UDHR celebrates its 70th anniversary this year and Australia should be very proud that one of its own was so influential in its drafting and inception. In 2010, the UDHR broke a new world record for being the most translated text in history, with the UN Human Rights office receiving a certificate from the Guinness Book of Records stating that the Declaration has been translated into in 370 languages and dialects from Abkhaz to Zulu” Coyne said. “We are very excited to collaborate on an event celebrating the proud and tragic history of Australia at war and its powerful and lasting influence on the world through one of the most famous documents in global history, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights” Coyne said.

“We want to Honour this hero of Australian history and international human rights. ALHR hopes that a memorial in honour of Hodgson might be commissioned in time to be unveiled on 10 December 2018, the 70th Anniversary of the UDHR, in the city where he was educated, Ballarat. This will be followed by a number of events with various dignitaries discussing the lessons from Hodgson’s life and his legacy in the context of contemporary Australian politics and modern international relations.”

Media Contact: To arrange an interview with Benedict Coyne please contact Matt Mitchell M: 0431 980 365 E: media@alhr.org.au

ALHR was established in 1993 and is a national association of Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. ALHR has active and engaged National, State and Territory committees and specialist thematic committees. Through advocacy, media engagement, education, networking, research and training, ALHR promotes, practices and protects universally accepted standards of human rights throughout Australia and overseas.

Colonel William Roy Hodgson was a student at the Ballarat School of Mines, which is now Federation University Australia. The Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) at Federation University Australia has a strong focus on the ways in which human rights have inspired activism and reform in Australian social services.