International law expert to lead Commission

11 September 2023

Distinguished academic Professor Penelope Mathew will succeed Dr Helen Watchirs OAM at the ACT Human Rights Commission, Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne announced in a media release.

Professor Mathew will return to her former home town of Canberra to serve as President and Human Rights Commissioner of the ACT Human Rights Commission from October 23, 2023.

Currently Dean of the University of Auckland Law School, Professor Mathew has devoted her career to human rights. She is an expert adviser on international refugee law who brings experience working in other human rights jurisdictions and engaging with the United Nations.

Professor Penelope Mathew.

The respected scholar and leader knows the ACT well, having worked at the Human Rights Commission here as a legal and policy adviser between 2006 and 2008. In that role, she conducted an audit of the Territory’s remand centres and was frequently called upon to advise on human rights issues arising from legislative proposals. She also designed and delivered human rights education for public servants and the ACT community.

In 2008, the ACT Government awarded her an International Women’s Day Award for her outstanding contributions to human rights and social justice.

She will be the ACT’s second Human Rights Commissioner. Dr Watchirs, who finishes in the role this month, was the first, appointed to the role in 2004, and then as President of the Commission in 2016.

Read the full media release: International law expert to lead Territory’s Human Rights Commission