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Performance Analysis – how we are meeting our goals


The commission operates in a complex and fluid cultural, social, economic and political context. The nature of human rights issues is that they are many and diverse and the ultimate results (what difference, what benefit) of our activities are difficult to measure and attribute, generally being long-term and incrementally achieved, and undertaken collaboratively with multiple stakeholders.

In this context the Commissions monitoring and evaluation framework maps progress indicators to performance expectations that are feasible in the 4 -year outlook of the Corporate Plan (all being well in our operating context).

This statement has provided a range of monitored and evaluated activities, project examples and case studies to illustrate our performance.

The tables below provide an assessment of the extent to which we have met the performance expectations and the challenges, context and lessons from this years’ experience.

Refer to Appendix 1 for the full performance measurement framework table.

Goal 1

Outcomes 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 (PBS criterion)

Performance expectation

To what extent did we meet it?

For outcome 1.1

Recommendations and actions in the ‘national conversation’ report to the Attorney-General and federal Parliament are positively received and progressed or adopted

Recommendations to Australia from the 3rd United Nations (UN) Universal Periodic Review Council (UPR) are accepted by federal Government and progressed

The national conversation initiative and UPR project operate in a multi-year context. In this reporting period, the foundations for meeting the performance expectations were laid by:

  • conducting the high-profile conference that raised awareness of the need for a ‘conversation’ and the issues, and generated momentum among existing stakeholders and drew new stakeholders to the initiative,
  • the research and participatory consultation phase which delivered stakeholder views – strengthening the credibility and persuasiveness of the findings,
  • delivering clear stakeholder-led narrative to anchor the recommendations and reports as they are finalised in the next period.
  • identifying key elements of a human rights reform agenda with the finalisation of the Commission UPR submission – building on the key themes from consultations from the national conversation project.

For outcome 1.2

Our research, reporting and advice influences decision makers and other stakeholders to take action to address the identified human rights issues

During COVID-19 the Commission’s President and commissioners have provided guidance on the human rights implications of the pandemic and response measures, and have been sought out by key decision makers (such as the National COVID Commission) for input.

Over the past year, the Commission has also advanced several research and reporting initiatives that are multi-year in their operation.* These projects have achieved progress results that will strengthen their influence including:

  • empowering and inclusive consultation processes that participants feel have elevated their voices and views.
  • diverse stakeholders brought together with often differing vested interests and still generated ownership.
  • collaborative, strategic partnerships that have increased reach and accessed technical expertise benefiting the overall findings and outcomes of the projects.

A high degree of satisfaction was expressed by stakeholders across different projects, indicating a high level of trust in and support for the Commission’s expertise and leadership role.

*Respect@Work, Children’s Rights 2019 report, Human Rights and Technology, Wiyi Yani Thangani (Women’s voices), Sharing the Stories of Australian Muslims, and OPCAT implementation in Australia).

For outcome 1.3

Parliamentary committee inquiry reports adopt the human rights issues raised in our submissions and recommendations.

UN treaty body concluding observations and other recommendations are adopted by Government and implemented

Arguments presented in our submissions to courts influence outcomes for parties and non-parties in a way that is consistent with human rights

Trust in our human rights expertise, the rigour and evidence base of our analysis, and of our reputation for robust, independent engagement are critical to the success of the Commission against this outcome area.

In this reporting period, parliamentary submissions were referenced by parliamentary committees with a number of our issues reflected in the final inquiry report. In our United Nations engagement, the Commission’s advice and recommendations were reflected in the periodic reporting dialogue sessions between the relevant UN treaty committee and the Australian government, as well as being reflected in the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability. The challenge remains for the concluding observations of UN treaty committees to be systematically addressed in Australia.

The Commission has strict criteria for when it seeks leave of the Court to intervene in legal proceedings. We only seek leave when it is appropriate to do so – accordingly, the number of interventions conducted is not a measure of the success of this work. A more reliable indicator is first the acceptance by the courts of our request to intervene, and second the extent to which our advice is used.

In this period, all our requests to intervene were accepted. The case studies presented in this statement show the contributions we made in these court proceedings.

Many of the projects and activities referred to under goal 1 seek to provide national leadership by identifying important issues that are not sufficiently on the national policy agenda and create momentum for those issues to be addressed.

The Commission has been successful in raising awareness and building greater understanding of issues (such as the importance of focusing on human rights protections for new technologies, or on hearing the distinct voice of children, or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and women to understand the main issues that affect them). Having achieved greater awareness and recognition of these issues, there are two main challenges to be faced.

First, finalising reporting of often expansive consultations on complex issues. Major projects in the past two years have extended beyond original timelines, reflecting the need to do justice to the inputs achieved within constrained funding. Second, is the challenge of achieving systemic change to address concerns that have been identified. This is a longer term objective which requires the Commission to advocate for issues that may not be priorities to government at the time that they are raised; and to identify opportunities that may arise to shift existing approaches through law, policy and practice. This implementation challenge is bigger than the Commission – often requiring action from actors across multiple domains – political, business, and the community.

In the past year, the COVID-19 Pandemic has created further challenges to achieving this goal. The Commission has had to modify its approach to different projects, such as adapting to online consultation techniques and conducting awareness activities through virtual processes. The Commission has changed to the use of online technologies well, but this has nevertheless created challenges in accessing more vulnerable and marginalised communities, and in outreach beyond the cities, and in building awareness of key findings at a time when the priority focus has to be on addressing the public health crisis facing the country and world.

Goal 2

Outcomes 2.1, 2.2 (both PBS criterion)

Performance expectation

To what extent did we meet it?

For outcome 2.1

Participants in education activities benefit through achieving the stated human rights learning and capability objectives

Human rights education is a mandated function of the Commission achieved directly through specific training and resource development programs, and indirectly as critical pre-condition in the success outcomes of other programs.

  • In this statement we provide evidence of meeting this expectation through the development of targeted adult learning training packages expertly delivered. Participant level evidence shows this work has exceeded individual targets, with most participants very satisfied after finding them relevant, engagingly delivered, and worthwhile – and in turn reporting raised knowledge, understanding, ability and skill results.
  • This performance expectation is met and enhanced when individual training results are supported and sustained as part of a greater organisational educational and change agenda. Examples in this statement include initiatives where the Commission is working with partners to develop multi-faceted organisational approaches to achieving common human rights goals.*
  • In this reporting period the Commission progressed its training strategy to include an online function. This enabled a quick pivot to continue to meet the needs of project partners. Online delivery will ensure training can be delivered within the parameters of existing physical distancing requirements while offering learners greater convenience and flexibility.
  • The challenge of meeting this expectation in the school context is managed by ensuring our school teaching packages are mapped to the national curriculum and developed with input of teachers.**

*Upholding the rights of older workers training (face to face & online) and multigenerational workforce resources with NSW Government, Commission-Defence collaboration program and the Inclusive leadership training materials for the Royal Australian Navy project. **Start to Talk, Teaching School Children About Digital Health Records.

For outcome 2.2

Target audiences benefit from our information resources, services, campaigns, and events

Foundational to meeting this expectation is that targeted audiences are reached, access our information resources and services, and participate in our events and campaigns.

The effectiveness of website and multimedia engagement in supporting reach and access is evidenced through the digital engagement data provided – which exceeded the 5% growth target for pageviews and website visits. This statement also lists a wide range of high-profile public events and educational and information resources that have been delivered. Access and reach are demonstrated through the stakeholder participation rates, digital access and download data provided across the reported work.

This statement provides clear examples of this expectation through target audiences that have benefited from our legal and guideline resources and have found a key awareness campaign (and its resources) relevant and valuable.*

*Reports to the Minister under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth), Guidelines for the promotion of equal opportunity for women and girls in golf, Guidelines for the inclusion of transgender and gender diverse people in sport, Elder abuse advocacy and awareness initiative.

The requirement to deliver all training through online techniques is likely to be a focus for some time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The benefit of this is that it enables greater systematisation of our training resources, potential for larger reach beyond physical attendance requirements, and longevity through being able to utilise materials in multiple formats and contexts.

The challenge is maintaining online systems and educational resources that are engaging and useful, and that are targeted to need.

Our education and outreach work is growing, through a mix of fee for service opportunities and external partnerships. A challenge we will continue to face is balancing our proactive, resource development capacity so that we are relevant and a leading provider of content, and ensuring we have capacity to meet demand on emerging issues of concern to the community in a timely and effective manner.

We will continue to re-invest funding obtained through fee for service arrangements to grow our educational capacity and skills capacity, as well as maintaining rigorous evaluation processes to improve and grow our existing training work.

The Commission conducts a number of public events each year. This is not feasible in the same way for the foreseeable future, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the Commission will need to adapt to other engagement practices to communicate with the community. We are focused on progressively building digital-based communication capacities, such as through in-house skills in developing infographics, short videos and other social media content; and in building into our work digital engagement strategies to improve our reach. We are also focused on identifying ways to adapt our materials for multiple audiences to achieve broader reach and awareness of human rights issues.

Goal 3

Outcomes 3.1, 3.2 (both PBS criterion)

Performance expectation

To what extent did we meet it?

For outcome 3.1

Participants and stakeholders, in our consultations, research and education and informing activities experience participation, empowerment and benefit

Ensuring authentic and inclusive participation in our programs and initiatives is an important Commission value. Achieving it also strengthens the credibility and influence of the reports and other products that projects culminate with. This statement provides:

  • Examples* of initiatives that have achieved inclusive participation strategies that attracted a diverse range of stakeholders to activities and in turn receiving feedback on the authenticity of the Commission’s leadership and independence in that activity.
  • Examples* of initiatives that demonstrate the performance expectation through the empowerment and benefit of more vulnerable participants in consultations, research and education and informing activities. Several of these initiatives describe activities that build on the empowerment through participation providing real time participant feedback, such as consultation results presented as word cloud resources that can be shared among the community or community versions of the reports. In the coming period, several will develop education and advocacy resources for communities to use by and for themselves.

*Free and Equal: an Australian conversation on human rights, Human Rights and Technology, OPCAT implementation in Australia, Business and Human Rights Dialogue, Respect@Work, Sharing the stories of Australian Muslims, Wiyi Yani U Thangani (women and girls).

For outcome 3.2

Our activities with stakeholder organisations lead to systemic and sustained action, including changes to organisational policy and practice, to protect and promote human rights in their context

Our activities with Australian business increase their capability to identify, prevent and address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains.

Our regional technical cooperation activities increase stakeholder capacity to advance national reform in partner states.

In this period, most initiatives working directly with partner organisations have met or progressed this expectation.

Examples in the statement demonstrate foundational results across these expectations through activities that have first increased participating organisations understanding of the impact of their systems and operations on human rights and then gone on to collaboratively deliver activities that turning human rights from legal instruments into effective policies and practical realities.

The benefit from initiatives undertaken with several partners is also illustrated by the renewal of multiyear funding arrangements by partners.

The activities of our business and human rights strategy evidence how we have met this expectation through the collective results of multiyear activities in which business participants report an increased understanding of their role in preventing modern slavery and greater capacity to take practical action address it.*

*Commission-Defence Collaboration to support and improve cultural reform across Defence (2014–2024), Guidelines for the promotion of equal opportunity for women and girls in golf, Annual Business and Human Rights Dialogue – 2014 to 2019, KPMG partnership on modern slavery.

Regional technical cooperation programs

These programs work in a long-term multiyear context where this expectation is progressed within the challenges of international work. This statement demonstrates progressive results towards this expectation that include the strengthening of relationships between the Commission and the key implementing State partners, positive learning outcomes from the annual programs of human rights educational and knowledge exchange events and the commencement of technical information resources.

With the onset of the COVID-19 these programs pivoted to blended learning models. This combination of online modules and interactive sessions allows the capacity-building work to continue, despite the travel restrictions. The value of these initiatives to both the regional countries and the Australian Government is further illustrated by the extensions to the scope of programs in both countries.*

*Vietnam Human Rights Fund 2017–2021, Human Rights, Technology and Cyber Security in Vietnam, Lao PDR-Australia Human Rights Technical Cooperation Program.

Critical to achieving this goal is the development of effective partnerships at the community level and with sectors of society, such as sporting organisations and the business community. The Commission is currently revamping its national anti-racism strategy which has the potential to foster many partnerships across different sectors, and provide a basis for greater collaboration across sectors.

The Commission has formed effective partnerships with sporting organisations through its work on child safety, as well as sports specific guidance to assist compliance with discrimination laws and in assisting cultural reform initiatives. The challenges to undertaking this work relate to our small staffing footprint to progress partnerships and the need for individual activities to be fully funded (requiring us to be agile and flexible in staffing projects at short notice).

Effective community partnerships also enable the Commission to access members of the community who may be distrusting of government or otherwise difficult to access.

The Commission has a high degree of trust at the community level which can assist this work. It means that we are able to engage in dialogue that would not always be achievable for mainline government departments. For example, the Commission’s Wiyi Yani U Thangani project is a joint initiative with the National Indigenous Australians Agency, which has assisted this government department to understand issues faced by indigenous women and girls. Our capacity building potential is often recognised by government but is under-utilised to investigate complex human rights challenges that exist in Australia. The challenge we face is to build awareness of our processes and to promote of this function.

Goal 4

Outcome 4.1 (PBS target)

Performance expectation

To what extent did we meet it?

For outcome 4.1

Our investigation and conciliation of complaints and dispute resolution meet performance indicators on timeliness, efficiency and service user satisfaction.

In the 2019–2020 period, the Commission met and exceeded all targets.

For outcome 4.1

Our investigation and conciliation of complaints and dispute resolution processes have systemic and educational outcomes.

Nearly half or 39% of conciliated outcomes included terms beneficial for people beyond the individual complainant.

Educational outcomes for parties were indicated in 77.5% of conciliated complaints.

The Commission’s National Information Service (NIS) and Investigation and Conciliation Service (ICS) both contribute significantly to the Commission’s key functions as Australia’s National Human Rights Institution, by providing education about human rights and responsibilities and by providing an accessible, fair and impartial complaint-handling process.

The 2020 calendar year has included exceptional challenges for individuals and businesses across Australia as some have faced the devastating health and economic implications of COVID­‑19. All Australians have had their lives impacted in unprecedented ways and issues of concern that have been raised with the NIS and ICS include loss of employment, racial abuse, travel restrictions, altered education experiences, and impaired access to essential services.

Despite the above challenges, over 1,000 complaints were resolved through an ICS conciliation process in 2019­–2020. This represents successful dispute resolution for well over 2,000 individuals and organisations. Importantly, in some instances the outcomes have included the maintaining of employment relationships, facilitating access to education for children with disabilities and ensuring ongoing, appropriate access to services for some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians.

In times of uncertainty and unprecedented change, successful dispute resolution can assist complainants and respondents to maintain employment and education relationships and facilitate enhanced and appropriate service provision in ways that encourage community building and understanding.

Given the COVID-19 led changes to the way in which people are working and interacting in the community, the ICS has embraced the use of new technologies. These technologies have enabled ICS staff to facilitate conciliation conferences with participants from across Australia and run inclusive and accessible community information sessions via online resources.