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Goal 2 More people, communities, and organisations respect and understand human rights

Outcome 2.1 [PBS criterion 1]

Our education activities increase capability among individuals, communities and organisations to promote and protect human rights and address discrimination.

Progress indicator 2.11 [PBS target]

Most participants in our adult training programs report:

  • satisfaction with the quality and relevance of the training
  • increased understanding, expertise, reframed attitudes.

Upholding the Rights of Older Workers training – NSW Government

‘I didn’t realise until today that ageism was a thing … now I’m going back to my office to see how I can change how I work.’

—training participant

This initiative, to deliver and evaluate ten face-to-face workshops with NSW Government’s Department of Communities and Justice staff began in the previous period and was completed and evaluated in this period. The findings are summarised below. The results are an example of how our face-to-face training programs meet indicator 2.11 and the PBS target through employers’ staff training programs.

96% of respondents reported they benefited from the training

99% said the training was well facilitated

97% said the activities supported learning.

A before-to-after training impact analysis showed that:

All increased their understanding of the topics covered

All increased their ability to foster an age friendly workplace

’The most interesting training session I have attended this year! [names trainer] was a fabulous facilitator with deep knowledge of this topic.’

‘A great combination of facts and practical examples of tangible things you can do at work.’

‘The discussion…especially the economic benefits if the over 50s participate in the workforce blew me away!!’

‘It has made me rethink my assumptions of many situations.’

—survey respondents

As an endorsement of this outcome, the NSW Government commissioned a further training program and other work. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the face-to-face project pivoted to the development and implementation of an online Upholding the rights of older workers training package. Online delivery will ensure training can be delivered within the parameters of existing physical distancing requirements while offering learners greater convenience and flexibility. The reach of online training, to be delivered in 2020–2021, will also be much more substantial. Other ‘age’ resource projects funded by NSW Government are reported under Indicator 2.21.

Commission-Defence Collaboration­: Inclusive Leadership Network pilot

The Commission team developed the Inclusive Leadership Network (ILN) pilot project. The ILN aimed to prepare and equip a group of Defence leaders to lead, model, champion and mainstream inclusive leadership practices, and drive cultural reform across Defence. Commissioner Jenkins and Ken Lay, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, delivered the first ILN pilot from September 2018 to June 2019. The pilot evaluation was completed in this reporting period. This snapshot shows how this work meets indicator and PBS target 2.11.

 The survey participants' rating of their ability to advocate within their own work area for a more inclusive Defence culture rose from an average of 3 out of 5, to 4.8 out of 5. The survey participants' rating of their ability to practice inclusive leadership in their work area rose from an average of 3 out of 5, to 4.6 out of 5. The survey participants' rating of their ability to respond to backflash and resistance rose from an average of 2.4 out of 5, to 3.9 out of 5.

Working with schools

Start to Talk

In this reporting period the Commission initiated this project to develop a suite of resources aimed at the promotion of child safety and participation while playing sport. Public consultations were held with 78 children and young people between the ages of 6 and 12, and current primary and high school teachers. The resources are currently being designed in consultation with a young artist and planned for release in the next financial year as part of a broader public campaign to be developed by Play by the Rules.1

Teaching School Children About Digital Health Records

The My Health Record system offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage Australian children in an important conversation about their health rights.

Commissioned by the Australian Digital Health Agency, this project developed a set of resources to guide and support children using the My Health Record system. The resources are primarily targeted at those aged 14–17 years, given children in this age range can control their own health records. Some of the resources are also aimed to educate younger children about their health rights and what to expect when they turn 14.

The lesson plans are aligned with the Australian Curriculum, including the curriculum areas of Health and Physical Education, Digital Technologies, and Civics and Citizenship. They were co-designed by school students and are available to all teachers in Australia.

Partnership with the Shark Island Institute

In partnership with the Shark Island Institute, the Commission consulted on the development of 52 lessons for Years 5 to 12 that explore topics such as racism, privilege, and resilience and are designed to support teachers and students in exploring the key themes of the Australian documentary, The Final Quarter. In addition, the Commission provided expert advice on the development of three educational resources to support the promotion and use of ‘In My Blood It Runs’, a documentary about the lived experiences of ten-year-old Arrernte Aboriginal boy, Dujuan Hoosan.

Progress indicator 2.12

Instances of organisations working with the Commission to develop human rights education/training activities.

Inclusive leadership training materials for the Royal Australian Navy

The Commission-Defence Collaboration delivered content for two inclusive leadership workshops for the Royal Australian Navy (Navy) in 2019–2020: Inclusive Behaviours for Supervisory Leaders, and Inclusive Leadership for Middle Managers.

The workshops support the Navy’s focus on developing a diverse, inclusive, and respectful workplace. Navy is integrating the workshops into their gateway and promotional leadership courses.

Navy facilitators presented the ‘Inclusive Behaviours for Supervisory Leaders workshop’ several times in late 2019 and early 2020. The Commission then refined the workshop content in response to participant and facilitator evaluation.

Evaluation of Inclusive Behaviours for Supervisory Leaders found that:

  • over 60% of workshop participants reported that their understanding had increased in three areas: diversity and inclusion (61%); inclusive behaviours (67%); and inclusive language (65%),
  • participants provided positive feedback on the workshop content,
  • facilitators stated that the materials were well-structured and formatted and relevant to Navy’s context.

The Navy will present the Inclusive Leadership for Middle Managers workshop online or to a changed schedule due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Fostering multigenerational workforces – NSW Government

The NSW Government funded the Commission to undertake a several projects in alignment with its NSW Ageing Strategy 2016–2020.

Initially, the Commission developed and released (in the last reporting period): Multigenerational workforces: a guide to the rights of older workers under the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth). The guide provides employers and other work providers with information about the operation of the Act and practical guidance about promoting the inclusion of older workers in multigenerational workforces.

In this period, the development of a Multigenerational Workforces: factsheet, and a suite of posters, postcards and bookmarks was completed. The webpage hosting the resources has been viewed 2,080 times in 2019–2020 with 791 and 518 downloads of the guide and factsheet, respectively.

Outcome 2.2 [PBS criterion]

Our information resources, services, events, and campaigns reach inform and influence users and audiences.

Progress indicator 2.21 [PBS target]

Targeted audiences are reached, access our information resources and services, and participate in our events and campaigns. Demonstrated by:

  • digital engagement analytics exceeding the previous year’s benchmark by 5%
  • high rates of users report them engaging and relevant.

Public and digital engagement

For the 2019–2020 period the Commission implemented the ‘Google Search’ function on our website to enable a full text search across the site and publications. These results show the Commission exceeded the Indicator and PBS target of 5% growth in pageviews and website visits – with a 5.5% increase in pageviews and 10% increase in website visits for 2019–2020.

Other digital engagement and data in this reporting period:

  • 127,835 users searched the website in 2019–2020,
  • subscribers to our interest lists went to over 55,000, and the Commissions monthly e-newsletter reached over 21,000 people,
  • a new version of the Commission’s website went live in January 2020. In 2019–2020 the website was visited 6, 139,151 times with 10, 245,468 pageviews,
  • an online ‘submissions hub’ was also established was launched in February 2020 and has had over 4, 000 pageviews,
  • the Commission compiled its COVID-19 information in one central area on the website. Since the launch there have been 24,000 pageviews.

Events and launches

Our public presence helps us to reach large and diverse audiences and to facilitate informed debate. In this period, we hosted and promoted at least eight major events that have engaged substantial audiences and generated significant awareness and debate through media coverage:

  • Human Rights Awards
  • Human Rights Day Oration
  • Free and equal: An Australian conversation on human rights ­– Conference, and associated events with HE Dr Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (reported under Indicator 1.11)
  • Forum on Child Safe Organisations
  • Launch of National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian workplaces: Respect@Work report
  • The Final Quarter documentary screenings
  • Launch of The Children’s Rights Report 2019 – In their own right
  • Kep Enderby Memorial Lecture, delivered by Thomas Keneally, AO: The moveable feast: Australia and ace hate as experienced in the Lifetime as an observer.

Human Rights Day

The 2019 Human Rights Awards, held on 12 December 2019, was attended by 575 delegates from government, legal, business, and community sectors from around Australia. The Commission received 346 nominations across the nine Awards categories. Based on a post-event survey, 90% of respondents would recommend the Awards to their colleagues or organisations in their network.

Public engagement on the Awards was successful, with over 156, 826 Twitter accounts reached, and over 218, 000 impressions, with an accumulative reach of 8,795 via Instagram. Pageviews on the Awards website were 46% higher than the previous year, with 35,365 pageviews throughout the Awards period. The Awards also received a surplus of 90 media stories, with a minimum audience reach of 40,184.

Elder abuse advocacy and awareness

In this reporting period, Commissioner Patterson continued her term goal and program to improve Australia’s recognition and response to elder abuse, building on the findings of the 2017 Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) report, Elder Abuse ­– A National Legal Response and encouraging implementation of the recommendations.

Commissioner Patterson completed a pilot information campaign in Tasmania which included the launch of an elder abuse awareness bookmark – a resource developed with the agreement of the concept originators, ACT Legal Aid and in partnership with the Attorney-General’s Department.

The Commissioner travelled across the east coast of Tasmania, supported by a partnership with key stakeholder COTA Tasmania, who arranged the itinerary and logistics for community events and distribution of the resources through key stakeholder channels. As a result, the pilot increased awareness of the materials, leading to requests for bookmarks to distribute by stakeholders from key sectors, including banks, allied health providers, pharmacies and community organisations.

In tandem with the pilot, Commissioner Patterson leveraged multi-media media opportunities to increase knowledge of this project and resources across Australia and has reached international stakeholders. This led to a partnership with the US National Centre on Elder Abuse (NCEA), where an adapted bookmark was used in their 2020 World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD).

‘We love your bookmark campaign and would like to discuss partnering with you on it for the next WEAAD campaign. We all know elder abuse is a global social justice issue and I believe this could unite our efforts and build awareness.’

— Julie Schoen, NCEA Deputy Director

Evaluation and monitoring of the pilot indicate the bookmark resource and campaign messaging has gained traction, with Tasmanian stakeholders finding the bookmark relevant and practical.

‘This is a great resource, easy to distribute and easily understood.’

‘I hope that the bookmarks can be more widely distributed throughout Australia, they really are a great resource.’

‘We had some feedback that the bookmarks in the Seniors Week brochures were an incentive to some people to attend subsequent information sessions about elder abuse.’

—survey respondents, Tasmanian pilot

COVID-19 caused disruption to the distribution of the elder abuse materials, however, numerous organisations continued to disseminate the resources – nearly half a million bookmarks have been distributed nationally. Partnerships with Australia Post resulted in an undertaking to distribute bookmarks in 3,501 outlets across Australia in conjunction with WEAAD 2021, and with Queensland’s Department of Communities Disability Services and Seniors, to distribute 25,000 bookmarks by, in their Seniors Card mail out.

In this period, Commissioner Patterson also facilitated a collaboration among allied health stakeholders to develop elder abuse training materials for their workforces. She continued to raise the importance of harmonising powers of attorney legislation across jurisdictions and developing a national online register of powers of attorney with the Council of Attorneys-General.

In the coming year, Commissioner Patterson will continue her advocacy and education around elder abuse and the supports available. This includes launching an elder abuse awareness video, to be distributed across a range of channels to increase awareness of elder abuse and the national helpline, 1800 ELDERHelp (1800 353 374).

Racism. It Stops With Me – Let’s talk race resource

As part of this campaign, the Commission developed the Let’s talk race: a guide on how to conduct a conversation about racism resource to assist Australian organisations conduct meaningful and productive conversations about racism. The website page for this resource has been viewed 12,041 times in 2019–2020, with over half of these downloading the guide (6,298).

The Racism. It Stops with Me campaign website received 822,832 pageviews in 2019–2020.

Progress indicator 2.22

nstances of legal information, resources, guidelines, and exemption processes helping employers and organisations to comply with Australian discrimination and human rights law.


The Commission can issue guidelines under discrimination laws to assist the community to understand the law and provide examples of how to best to comply with it. In this section, we follow up on the outcomes of guidelines previously released and report on new guideline development.

Guidelines for the promotion of equal opportunity for women and girls in golf

Last year we reported on the release of these Guidelines, developed by Commissioner Jenkins in partnership with Golf Australia. Monitoring activities in this period indicate the guidelines are reaching clubs, are being used by them, and are making a difference.

Golf Australia has used the guidelines in its work on a national female engagement and gender equality strategy, Vision 2025: The Future of Women and Girls in Golf. As part of this work, Golf Australia:

  • supported the Guidelines release in an Australia-wide roadshow that delivered 51 presentations to nearly 1,500 golf club leaders
  • published 2020: 2025 Visionaries, which celebrated the significant steps the sport has taken towards gender equality since publication of the guidelines, and its own gender equality strategy.

‘Visionaries’ is a collection of case studies highlighting golf clubs that are doing work to promote equal opportunity. Many of the case studies refer directly to the Commission’s Guidelines and their role in increasing the recognition of equality issues and the need for change, and in supporting that change. For example, Huntingdale Golf Club commented that:

‘Management, a very supportive club committee, and membership and women’s sub-committees have been leading their club forward with Vision 2025 strategies to grow female participation by making changes reflective of the AHRC Guidelines to provide equal opportunity for women and girls.’

2020: 2025 Visionaries

While Torquay Golf Club realised that:

‘Some of our policies and procedures ran contrary to the requirements of the Sex Discrimination Act. We were not only being unlawful, but also not working to our ‘one club’ philosophy – to provide equal golfing experiences for both men and women.’

2020: 2025 Visionaries

The webpage hosting these Guidelines was viewed 1,388 times in 2019–2020 with 2,587 downloads.

Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport

In June last year Commissioner Jenkins published these Guidelines, developed in partnership with Sport Australia and the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports. In this period, several major sports organisations began developing their own inclusion policies, drawing on the Guidelines – including Cricket Australia in publishing its policies (elite and community) in August 2019.

Monitoring in this period shows the webpage hosting the Guidelines has been viewed 5,773 times with 1,424 downloads, and includes positive feedback received directly from individuals affected by the Guidelines. For example, a transgender woman told her story of competing in a regional sporting event. Encouraged by the launch of the Guidelines, she reached out to the organisers, speaking to them about the Guidelines. In response, they placed her in a women’s sporting team that was short a player. She was welcomed by both the organisers and the team. The impact on her was significant:

‘The affirmation, inclusion and feelings of community and belonging I have experienced are so over the top compared to anything I have ever experienced before, I can’t stop crying whenever I think of it…I thought I understood before how important sport was, but I was wrong. I had no idea what it felt like to belong. I only thought I did.’

—Sport Australia, shared correspondence, 20 July 2020

Disability Guidelines

The Commission has the power under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) to issue guidelines ‘for the avoidance of discrimination’ on the ground of disability. In this period Commissioner Gauntlett led the work on the development of two such guidelines, both to be published early in the next reporting period:

The Guidelines: Equivalent Access under the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Cth) aim to help operators and providers ensure that public transport services and infrastructure are accessible. The Commission partnered with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications to develop the guidelines. They provide guidance on the equivalent access provisions of the Disability Standards for Accessible Public Transport 2002 (Cth) (Transport Standards), their interaction with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), and practical help on assessing equivalent access measures.

The Guidelines on the rights of people with disability in health and disability care during COVID-19. In April 2020 the Commission was asked by the Advisory Committee on Health Emergency Response to Coronavirus for People with Disability to develop a set of Guidelines to support the implementation of the ‘Management and Operational Plan for COVID-19 for People with Disability’, developed by the Committee. The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide practical guidance on how to apply a human rights-based approach to decision making, that takes the right of people with disability into account, within the health system in the context of the of current pandemic.

Legal information and resources

Reports to the Minister under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

When the Commission receives a complaint of a breach of human rights or workplace discrimination, we attempt to resolve the complaint through conciliation. If conciliation is inappropriate or unsuccessful, and we find that there has been a breach of human rights or that the matter amounts to workplace discrimination, then we may prepare a report of the complaint for the Attorney-General.

When the Commission receives several complaints raising the same or similar issues, it may prepare one report focusing on the systemic issue raised by the group of complaints.

In this period, the Commission prepared 7 reports to the Attorney-General. Each of these reports is published on the Commission’s website. Two of these reports focused on systemic issues raised by multiple complainants, namely:

  • of force in immigration detention – see the case study below.
  • The practice of the Australian Government of sending families with young children who arrived in Australia seeking asylum to Nauru. This report was tabled in Parliament in 2019 and was titled Ms BK, Ms CO and Mr DE on behalf of themselves and their families v Commonwealth of Australia (Department of Home Affairs) [2018] AusHRC 128.

Case study 4: Use of force in immigration detention [2019] AusHRC 130

This report is based on an inquiry into 14 separate complaints received by the Commission about use of force. It draws together observations about how force is used in a variety of circumstances and makes recommendations aimed at systemic practical outcomes for people in immigration detention in Australia. The 14 complaints investigated related to the following kinds of use of force:

  • the use of handcuffs on detainees while being transferred between detention centres, or when attending court or medical appointments
  • the use of a face mask on a person being removed from Australia
  • the use of force on detainees within the detention centre environment
  • a significant incident where a number of detainees, including families with children, were removed from a detention facility by the operator’s Emergency Response Team.

The Commission found that, in nine cases, the use of force was contrary to the requirements of article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides that all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for their inherent dignity.

The report examined how risk assessments are carried out. If risk assessments are inaccurate, if they are not sufficiently tailored to the particular circumstances of the detainee, or if they are not sufficiently tailored to the particular circumstances where the use of force is anticipated, it can result in force being used too readily. The Commission welcomes the outcome that, following the commencement of this inquiry, the department decided to review its security risk assessment tool.

The report also found that there needs to be effective oversight of the use of force. This starts with ensuring there are clear lines of authority for approving the use of force, that specific approval is given for each use of force, and that records of such approvals are kept. Further, the actual use of force must be documented appropriately. The best way to do this is to ensure that any pre-planned use of force (and other uses of force to the extent possible) are filmed in their entirety. Reports on the use of force should be prepared to allow for subsequent review of whether it was appropriate.

The Department did not agree that the conduct complained of in the particular incidents involved a breach of human rights. Nevertheless, it said that since receiving a preliminary version of the Commission’s findings, it had made amendments to its internal policies which were directed to many of the issues identified by the Commission. The Department also said that it would take further action in the future to implement other recommendations in the report.


  1. Play by the Rules is an initiative that provides online education and information on discrimination, harassment, and child protection in sport, and is governed by a national Management Committee, which includes representatives from sport and recreation and human rights agencies.