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Charting a new roadmap for human rights

Graphic: Two boys stand on a rock by the beach at sunrise

Local and international speakers have shared their ideas for building a more cohesive Australia at a major conference convened by the NHRI.

Leading figures from business, the community sector, broadcasting, politics, the arts, academia and sport have shared their ideas for building a stronger and more cohesive Australia at a major conference convened by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Free and Equal Conference, held in Sydney on 8 October 2019, is the centrepiece of a year-long national conversation led by the Commission on modernising Australia's human rights framework and legislation to better meet the challenges of the 21st Century.


The national conversation seeks to engage the public in answering big questions, like ‘what kind of Australia do we want to live in?’ Not just for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children.

Australian Human Rights Commission Logo Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher, President, Australian Human Rights Commission

In her keynote address to the conference, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Dr Michelle Bachelet urged Australia to adopt a human rights charter.

"Australians rely on a patchwork of laws that address different forms of discrimination," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Dr Michelle Bachelet.

"As a result, the model is dispute-focused and remedial, rather than system-focused and proactive… Australians would benefit greatly from a comprehensive human rights law to systematically protect all their rights."

Dr Bachelet, who fled Chile in the 1970s and sought asylum in Australia, also reflected on her experiences and compared them with current federal government policies and treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.


Graphic: Dr Michelle Bachelet presents at the Free and Equal Conference


Other conference panels:

  • Considered the need to support the self-determination of Australia's First Peoples and develop a national identity that recognises Indigenous cultures
  • Stressed the importance of listening to the experiences of marginalised communities and incorporating these perspectives into policy making
  • Highlighted the role of business and sporting communities to promote and strengthen human rights
  • Addressed the urgent need to understand both the risks and benefits of technology
  • Encouraged different groups in the community to search for common ground at times of disagreement.

Video recordings of all the presentations and panel discussions are available at: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/free-and-equal-conference#RzPIF

Feedback from community consultations and public submissions will also inform a final report – a roadmap for human rights reform – that the Commission expects to release in mid-2020.

The release of the report will coincide with Australia undertaking its third Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council next year.

More information about Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights is available on the Commission's website.

Date: 18 October 2019


Image credits

  1. Two boys stand on a rock by the beach at sunrise - Flickr CC
  2. Dr Michelle Bachelet presents at the Free and Equal Conference - Australian Human Rights Commission