This Rights Talk event was hosted by President Professor Gillian Triggs. Here the three new commissioners were introduced; the Age Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Kay Patterson, the Disability Commissioner, Alastair McEwin and the Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow.
Dr Kay Patterson discussed her desire to raise the standards and expectations for elderly persons in our community. One of her main goals is to focus on the ‘willing to work inquiry,’ where the aim is to reduce employment discrimination against older Australians. A very plausible point Dr Patterson made was that she and Professor Triggs would not be standing where they are today if the statutory retirement age was still in place. Dr Patterson identified two other areas she will be working on, firstly elder abuse and secondly housing for older women.
Alastair McEwin shared his vision of removing barriers and increasing equality, respect and Human Rights for those in our community with a disability. He touched on the fact that there are employers who assume too quickly that those with a disability have a low or lesser ability, intellect, hopes and dreams compared to the rest of the population. Systematic barriers that he is hoping to address are that of housing, transport, employment and finally access to buildings. He also established that there is a need for leadership from Government, schools, Business, and employers to reduce these demonstrated inequalities.
Edward Santow discussed how Human Rights violations inflicted upon individuals cuts to the core of their humanity. Such violations include denying an opportunity to someone due to a mistaken belief (e.g around age or disability). He reflected on how it is a huge injustice to our society if we exclude people from their valuable contribution based on disability or age. Overall he highlighted how Human Rights cannot be worked on individually, as everyone needs to be involved to ensure a collaborative and respectful community that is resilient and ongoing.
After the commissioners finished their speeches there was a Q&A session. Topics of interest that were brought up included, the disadvantage gap in relation to age and disability widening; increasing the Australian Human Rights Commissions powers so that they can create a bigger impact; the inaccessibility of online technology for those with a disability; the anti-discrimination of sex workers re: decriminalisation and Human Rights; and that intimate partner violence is subject to the Rule of Law, however, the Commonwealth Children’s Commissioner’s (personal) opinion is that the courts lacks the right structure to deal with family matters. Professor Triggs highlighted the strong role that the commission has within the public arena and how it will fight on all fronts to resolve human rights issues.