Dr Watchirs Biography

CURRICULUM VITAE: Dr Helen Mary Watchirs, OAM


Years Employer Position & Level
2004- current position ACT Human Rights Commission President and Human Rights Commissioner;

(formerly Discrimination Commissioner from April 2004-March 2016)

2002-04 Research School of Social Sciences, ANU Post Doctoral Fellow Regulatory Institutions Network
1997-2001 ANU Law School PhD Student fulltime
1997 & 1999 UNAIDS Geneva Human Rights Legal Advisor
1996-2002 Social Security Appeals Tribunal Part-time Legal Member
1990-96 (with maternity leave 1992-1994) Federal Attorney-General’s Department, Human Rights Branch Legal 2 officer (seconded project Health Dept 1990-1992 HIV/AIDS)
1987-90 Attorney-General’s Department Legal 1 officer
1985-86 Dept Veteran’s Affairs, FOI and Public Law Branch Senior Tribunal Advocate
1984-85 Administrative Review Council Project Officer
1983-84 NSW Privacy Committee Research Officer
1982-83 Australian Law Reform Commission Law Reform Officer, Privacy Reference


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Australian National University 2002 – thesis topic: Measuring Legal Implementation of International Human Rights Norms in the Context of HIV/AIDS
  • Master of Public Law, Australian National University 1992 – thesis topic: AIDS, An Australian Public Law Perspective
  • Admitted to practice in NSW Supreme Court and of the High Court of Australia, 1982
  • Bachelor of Law, University of Sydney, 1982
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Sydney, 1980


  • Finalist in ACT Australian of the Year 2016
  • Order of Australia Medal for services to Human Rights in the ACT 2010
  • ACT Chief Minister’s Award for Organ Donation Awareness, Policy Advocacy and Support 2015 Gift of Life
  • Telstra 2012 ACT Business Woman of Year, award in Community & Government sector
  • Member of ANU Chancellor’s Staff Awards Committee (2011 onwards)
  • Member, ACT Law Reform Advisory Council (2008 onwards)
  • Member of Organ Tissue Authority Advisory Council (2012 -2015)
  • Member of National Health & Medical Research Council, Committee to Develop Ethical Guidelines on Transplant Waiting List Eligibility & Allocation Protocols (2013 onward)
  • Member of Federal Ministerial Advisory Council on Blood Borne Diseases, Viruses and STIs from 2009-2014, & Co-Chair of Legal Working Group (2010-2014)
  • Member of Australian National University and Department of Justice & Community Safety ARC Linkage Grant Human Rights Reference Group on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights 2009-2010
  • Member of Australian National University and Department of Justice & Community Safety ARC Linkage Grant on ACT Human Rights Act 2004 Reference Group 2005-09
  • Yogie Award, Outstanding Contribution to Youth Sector (Quamby HR Audit) in 2005
  • Member, WHO Mental Health, Human Rights and Legislation Faculty from 2003
  • Member, Regulatory Institutions Network, Board of Advisory Fellows, Research School of Social Sciences Law Program Australian National University 2004-06
  • Legal member, ANU Human Ethics Committee, 2003-04
  • Jonathan Mann Health and Human Rights full-time research scholar, 2002-03
  • National Health and Medical Research Council PhD full-time scholar, 1998-2001
  • Chair of NGO, ACT Disability, Aged & Carer Advocacy Service (ADACAS), 1997-99
  • Fellow, Harvard/WHO Collaborating Centre on Health Legislation, 1992
  • Various health and human rights consultancies: United Nations – UNAIDS, OHCHR, WHO, ILO and UNDP; and the Australian Government – Attorney-General’s Department, former Australian National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases, AusAID, and the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council.

    List of Publications

  • ‘Females in Custody in the ACT: Gendered Issues and Solutions’ 40 (1) Alternative Law Journal (2015) 18-22 (co-author)
  • ‘Maturing Attitudes to Human Rights’ ANU Reporter, August 2014 (co-author)
  • ‘Opening Address’ in M.Thornton (ed) Sex Discrimination in Uncertain Times (2011)
  • ‘Addressing Discrimination Against People Living with Blood Born Diseases’ in Legal Issues in Australian Public Health Impact of Discrimination – 7 papers, 2013: http://www.hrc.oskyweb.com/res/September%202013%20legal%20issues%20consolidated%20papers%20final.pdf
  • ‘Five Years Experience if the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT): Insights for Human Rights Protection’ (co-author Gabrielle McKinnon) (2010) 33(1) UNSW Law Review
  • ‘The ACT Human Rights Act 2004: an Overview of its Operation’ (2006) Just Policy (VCOSS)
  • ‘The First 18 months of the ACT Human Rights Act 2004’ (2006) Democratic Audit (ANU Centre for Policy Development)
  • ‘The ACT Human Rights Act 2004’ (2005) New Matilda
  • ‘A Local Perspective on ACT Human Rights Act 2004’ (2005) Hot Topics (NSW State Library)
  • ‘ ‘Auditing Mental Health and Human Rights: an Australian Model’ (2005) 28 International Journal of Law & Psychiatry 99-125 (author & co-editor special issue)
  • ‘Public Health, Criminal Laws and HIV/AIDS in Australian States and Territories’ in Australasian Society for HIV Medicine HIV & Hepatitis C: Policy, Discrimination Legal and Ethical Issues, Monograph (2005)  http://www.ashm.org.au/resources/publications/hiv-hepc-policy/
  • ‘AIDS Audit – HIV and Human Rights: an Australian Pilot’ (2003) 25 Law and Policy 245-268 (author & co-editor of special issue)
  • Cambodian HIV/AIDS and Human Rights Legislative Audit (2003) (co-author Chris Ward) Policy Project, US Futures Group Washington, http://www.policyproject.com/pubs/countryreports/CAM_LegAud.pdf
  • ‘A Human Rights Approach to HIV/AIDS Transforming International Obligations into National Laws’ (2002) 22 Australian Yearbook of International Law 77-112
  • ‘Review of Methodologies Measuring Human Rights Implementation’ (2002) 30 Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 716-733
  • Criminal and Public Health Offences for Disease Transmission or Exposure, Occasional Paper, Australian National Council on AIDS, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases (2002) (www.ancahrd.org/pubs/pdfs/op_2_may02.pdf)
  • ‘Measuring Legal Implementation of the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights’ Canadian HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review 2001 (author)
  • Application of a Rights Analysis Instrument to Australian Mental Health Legislation: Report to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council, Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2000 http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/360B8042750B3170CA2571F100079B16/$File/rights.pdf
  • A Rights Analysis Instrument to Measure Compliance with the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: Report to the Australian National Council on AIDS and Related Diseases, 2000 (www.ancahrd.org/pubs/pdfs/raifinal.doc)
  • ‘International HIV/AIDS Guidelines: Does Australia Comply?’ (2000) 11(1) HIV/AIDS Legal Link 1
  • Handbook for Legislators on HIV/AIDS, Law and Human Rights, UNAIDS and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Geneva, UNAIDS/99.48E, 1999
  • ‘Law Reform in Australia: The Legal Working Party, Intergovernmental Committee on AIDS’ in L. Wiseberg (ed) Human Rights and HIV/AIDS: Effective Community Responses, Human Rights Internet (1998)
  • A Rights Analysis Instrument for Use in Evaluating Mental Health Legislation, Report to the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council, the Attorney-General’s Legal Practice, 1996 (principal counsel) (www.health.gov.au/hsdd/mentalhe/resources/pdf/rightsanalysis.pdf)
  • International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights, UNAIDS and the Center for Human Rights, UN HR/PUB/98/1, 1996 (principal author & consultant for the Second International Consultation on HIV/AIDS & Human Rights, Chair Justice Michael Kirby) (www.unaids.org/publications/documents/human/law/3797.html)