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The Commission undertakes a wide range of activities in pursuit of our statutory functions. We focus our work on issues that constitute ‘protected attributes’ under federal discrimination law or for which there is a mandated special purpose Commissioner. This includes: race; age; disability; sex discrimination; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice; children; sexual orientation, gender identity and intersex status; and issues within the role of the Human Rights Commissioner, including asylum seekers and immigration, national security and technology issues.

We must inquire into and attempt to conciliate complaints of unlawful discrimination, and breaches of human rights, and process applications for exemptions under the age, disability and sex discrimination acts.

We may also produce reports to the federal Parliament in relation to the enjoyment and exercise of human rights by children in Australia, by Aboriginal persons and Torres Strait Islanders, and in relation to complaints of breaches of human rights. We have a range of functions to raise awareness, conduct research and develop educational resources about human rights, and consider the compatibility of legislation with human rights.

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) requires us to exercise our functions in a manner that achieves the ‘greatest possible benefit to the people of Australia’ and ‘with regard for the indivisibility and universality of human rights’. Accordingly, we also conduct human rights education, intervene in human rights matters before the courts, and promote the role of business in addressing human rights.

Our work priorities are set through an annual planning process framed by the four goals in our 2019–2020 Corporate Plan. In addition, the Commission ensures its work helps achieve the outcome articulated in its Portfolio Budget Statement, being:

  • An Australian society in which human rights are respected, protected and promoted through independent investigation and resolution of complaints, education and research to promote and eliminate discrimination, and monitoring and reporting on human rights.

the sole program of which, Program 1.1, is:

  • Australians have access to independent human rights complaint handling and public inquiries processes and benefit from human rights education, promotion and monitoring, and compliance activities.

Performance measurement

The performance statement in this report identifies how the Commission has met its purpose. These results are reported in relation to our Performance measurement framework, published in the 2019–2020 Corporate Plan.1 In this framework our purpose and functions are reflected in the organisational goals and outcomes. The outcomes are pitched to a level where we can reasonably expect to contribute to them:

  • within the four-year outlook of each corporate plan,
  • through the collective contributions of our President and Commissioners across their individual terms, and through our ongoing programs and services, and
  • in an operating context that remains stable.

Progress indicators are mapped to each of the outcomes. They are designed to provide reasonable evidence of contribution to the outcome, and include output, process, and outcome measures. They are, in turn, supported by a range of data from monitoring and evaluation strategies implemented across the Commission’s programs and services.

Six of the outcomes correspond to the performance criteria in the Commission’s Portfolio budget statement (PBS), and eleven of the indicators correspond to the performance targets in our PBS. This relationship is indicated in the full framework table, located in Appendix 1, and throughout the following statement. In this way, a clear line of sight is maintained between our PBS, work plan and results.

In reporting against all the progress indicators, we have focused on case studies and exemplar activities to demonstrate our performance.


  1. 2019-20 Corporate Plan https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/commission-general/publications/corporate-plan-2019-2020