From Commission President & Human Rights Commissioner, Helen Watchirs
This month we celebrated both an international anniversary and a local milestone – the anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), and the launch of the Commission’s first cultural safety charter.
The charter was launched by Karen Flick, the Commission’s cultural advisor. It was developed under the guidance of a group of strong leaders and members of the Aboriginal community, including Pat Anderson, Di Collins, Nekol Stuart, Ashley Johnson, Tamara Murray and Rod Little.
At the launch on 13 September, we were pleased to host an open and forthright discussion with our forum co-hosts, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body (ATSIEB) represented by Deputy Chair Jo Chivers and Maurice Walker, with members of the United Ngunnawal Elders Council including Aunty Ros Brown, and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders and members.
Laura Burr from YWCA Young Women’s Council also spoke about her experience at the 2019 session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
We will use the impetus and good will from the forum to continue to advocate for reform to achieve better human rights outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
While the ACT Human Rights Act says that public authorities must respect the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we know that government, authorities and service providers in the ACT also have a long way to go.
The ACT has one of the highest rates of indigenous incarceration in the country.
The ACT also has an unacceptably high level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being placed in out-of-home care outside their extended families. We have commented on out of home care publicly before, and in June 2019, made a submission to the ACT Government’s review of child protection decision. The ACT must step into line with most other jurisdictions in Australia, and provide for external review of child protection decisions.
On December 10, I will also chair a public forum for International Human Rights Day on raising the age of criminal responsibility, another issue on which we will continue to advocate. Details will be posted on the Commission’s facebook page soon.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our executive officer, Sean Costello. Sean is moving to the Queensland Human Rights Commission at the end of the year.
Sean initially volunteered with the then Human Rights Office in 2004 and started working for the Commission in 2008. He worked on reviewing many human rights laws, policies and practises, such as Bimberi in 2011, and the Alexander Maconochie Centre in 2014, as well as court and tribunal interventions, and discrimination projects including the award-winning diversity goes with our territory campaign. He worked in Justice and Community Safety Directorate for three years in 2016-19, including working on an inquiry into the treatment in custody of Steven Freeman. Sean re-joined the Commission a year ago.
With Queensland’s human rights act passing earlier this year, it is an exciting time for Queensland’s Commission and we wish Sean well in his new role there. We look forward to welcoming Rosemary Budavari as our new executive officer.