Meeting held on 7 November 2014
The Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities, comprising state and territory statutory authorities with responsibility for discrimination, equal opportunity and human rights laws and the Australian Human Rights Commission, met on 7 November in Sydney
At its meeting, the Council focused on issues of common concern and new developments relevant to their work. Key matters of concern discussed include the following
The meeting reviewed the broad range of activities being undertaken under the national anti-racism strategy and by state and territory authorities. These include very positive developments in working with police, local government, universities, business and sporting clubs.
There was strong recognition of the importance and effectiveness of bystander actions and systemic responses to discrimination. ACHRA welcomes the continuation of the National Anti-Racism Strategy.
Supporting working parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review
ACHRA received an update from the Australian Human Rights Commission on this national review.
Of particular interest is the work being done to develop nationally relevant and consistent resources for employers and employees about rights and obligations in relation to pregnancy and return to work arrangements.
Workers returning to work from injury or illness
It was noted at a previous meeting that there are consistently high levels of disability discrimination complaints and the number of those complaints that relate to workplace injury and difficulties experienced on return to work from injury and significant illness.
The meeting considered data from different authorities on complaints alleging issues related to return to work and dismissal or redundancies related to injury or illness. It identified the need for collaborative research work with workplace safety authorities and to develop better resources for employers on how to make appropriate workplace adjustments, whether permanent or temporary.
The meeting explored the question on whether the discrimination experienced is linked to the injury or illness, or to having made a compensation claim.
Disability and Equality
State and Territory authorities provided input to the Australian Disability Discrimination Commissioner on disability trends in complaints and issues identified through other work. All but one authority indicated that disability complaints represent the greatest proportion of complaints received.
Employment, education and access to facilities, goods and services are all significant areas of concern for people with disability. The meeting discussed the need to support schools to implement effective processes to ensure students with disability are included and any work place safety concerns are managed without discrimination. Similarly the barriers to equal employment opportunity were identified and consideration is being given to work that ACHRA can do to support more appropriate workplace approaches.
Many of the authorities identified questions about implementation of the NDIS given it is the most significant reform in the disability sector for many years.
It was noted that it is not realistic to rely on market models to be inclusive of people with disability and this is an area in which regulatory arrangements and intervention is needed to achieve equality.
Education fees for asylum seekers
ACHRA members have identified a continuing concern about asylum seeker children being charged fees to attend schools in some jurisdictions.
International Human Rights
The meeting also noted and discussed Australia's Universal Periodic Review Report due to be submitted in 2015 to the United Nations Human Rights Council on implementation of human rights in Australia.
Communique also available in pdf and Word
South Australia: Commissioner Anne Gale, 0422 007 069
Queensland: Commissioner Kevin Cocks, 0402 288 419
Victoria: Commissioner Kate Jenkins, 0459 114 657
Tasmania: Commissioner Robin Banks, 0459 800 570
Northern Territory: Commissioner Sally Sievers, 08 8999 1444
Australian Capital Territory: Commissioner Helen Watchirs, 0423 821 718
Australian Human Rights Commission: Sarah Bamford, 0417 957 525
New South Wales: Anti-Discrimination Board President Stepan Kerkyasharian, 0404 488 474
Western Australia: Commissioner Allanah Lucas, 08 92163954