Australia: Human Rights Education At The Forefront

By Shar Adams
Epoch Times Australia Staff 
Mar 07, 2006

Lawyer, Mediator, and Company Director, Graeme Innis, has been named both
new Human Rights Commissioner and new Disability Commissioner for
Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)

Mr Innis replaces Dr Sev Ozdowski, who conducted a three-year inquiry
cataloguing a litany of human rights violations against child asylum
seekers. The resulting report has been credited for the government's
decision to release all children from immigration detention centres in
August 2005.

President of HREOC, John von Doussa QC welcomed the appointment of Mr
Innis to the dual roles, stating that Mr Innis had a wealth of experience
in the human rights and equal opportunity areas.

Mr Innis has been Deputy Disability Discrimination Commissioner for HREOC
since 2000 and was the first blind President of the Royal Blind Society of

He has also been in the human rights field for over twenty years, working
in the Commonwealth arena, as hearing commissioner and policy adviser, and
in the States as a lawyer and conciliator for NSW and Western Australian
Equal Opportunity Commissions.

"I have been in the field for a long time and I suppose this appointment
is the peak of my achievement," Mr Innis told The Epoch Times.

While he is still in the planning process to determine what sorts of
issues he will be working on, Mr Innis said education will continue to be
a focus.

"Human Rights education will be an important facet of the work that I do
in the next five years," he said "because it is an important part of the
Commission's function.

"Australia is a society where I think, in general, there is a fair degree
of tolerance and respect for people's different views and different
approaches on issues and I will be wanting to reinforce that sort of

His comments come on the back of results of a recent HREOC report stating
young Australians still have some apprehensions about human rights issues
and there is a need for further education in the area. As a result a new
human rights webpage was launched by HREOC last month, specifically for
secondary students.

As Human Rights Commissioner, Mr Innis will be expected to advise the
government on policy, preside over hearings on human rights complaints,
and develop programmes to increase awareness. He may also participate in
the Secretariat of Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights
Institutions which the commission has hosted since 1996, and the Human
Rights Technical Assistance Program, which is an integral part of the
annual Dialogue on Human Rights with China.

Mr Innis said: "he was very pleased with his appointment" and did not
expect it to be without its challenges.

"This job is not only a proactive job," he said: "it's a job where you
often have to react to situations in relation to human rights as they
occur, so no doubt I will have a few of those to attend to in the next
five years as well."




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