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Past talks

Prof. Simon Easteal
RightsTalk: Genomics and Indigenous peoples
Prof. Simon Easteal
Monday 20 June 2016

About the event

Hosted by: Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Guest Speaker: Prof. Simon Easteal, National Centre for Indigenous Genomics

Location: Australian Human Rights Commission, L3, 175 Pitt St, Sydney NSW 2000

Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM


The science of genomics is at the heart of extraordinary new discoveries and technologies that are transforming medical practice. Genomics enables information about a person's DNA to be used for diagnosis and the treatment of disease. For this to happen, however, a person's genome must be examined along with the genomes of many other people. At the moment we know a lot about the genomes of people of European ancestry, but much less about the genomes of people from other parts of the world, and almost nothing at all about the genomes of Indigenous Australians.

Without this knowledge, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be excluded from many of the benefits that flow from human genomics research. Rather than helping to close the health gap, these developments in medical science may actually cause it to open up even further.

The National Centre for Indigenous Genomics (NCIG), led by an Indigenous-majority Governance Board, is working with Indigenous communities to create a database of genome sequences that will ensure that as medical science advances, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are not left behind. NCIG is creating the framework needed to ensure that Indigenous Australians are included, in ways that they decide, in the health, economic, educational and social benefits of advances in genome science.

Biography: Professor Simon Easteal

Director, National Centre for Indigenous Genomics

Simon Easteal is a Research Professor at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the ANU, where he has been the Deputy Director and is now Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics. He was born and raised in Sri Lanka, educated there, in Scotland and in Australia and has held academic appointments in the USA, Fiji and Australia

He has a wide range of research interests and a strong commitment to understanding the broader societal implications of his research. He is interested in the evolutionary interplay between humans and their environments, how this interplay has made us such a diverse species, and how it impacts our health and wellbeing. This evolutionary perspective provides a framework for understanding the impact of human diversity on health.

Prof Easteal has served on numerous editorial boards, advisory committees, government taskforces, working parties and other bodies in public and private organisations, and he has provided expert opinion in relation to genetic evidence used in court cases in most Australian jurisdictions. He founded a personalised medicine company, and has been a member of the scientific advisory boards of two biotechnology companies.

As the Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Genomics he is committed to ensuring that Indigenous Australians are included in the health and other benefits of genomic science.

Register Here

Watch live 20 June 2016, 12:30pm


Aboriginal girl facepainted, cover of CRC 25 report
RightsTalk: Australian Child Rights Progress Report
Megan Mitchell, The Honourable Alistair Nicholson, Professor Deborah Brennan
Friday 10 June 2016

RightsTalk: Megan Mitchell, Alastair Nicholson, Deb Brennan

The Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Child Rights Taskforce invite you to a special discussion on the rights of children in Australia, as well as to launch CRC25 - the Australian Child Rights Progress Report.

  • Hosted by the National Children’s Commissioner, Ms Megan Mitchell
  • Key note address provided by The Honourable Alistair Nicholson
  • Thematic address – Professor Deborah Brennan, Social Policy Research Centre
  • Register:

The Australian Child Rights Taskforce is the peak body for child rights in Australia, co-convened by UNICEF Australia and National Children's and Youth Law Centre. Made up of more than 100 organisations advocating for the promotion and fulfilment of the rights of Australia’s children, our goal is to ensure child rights remains squarely on the agenda of the Australian government and people.

How has the situation improved for children since Australia ratified the Convention on Rights of Child was ratified in Australia in 1990?  Where has there been a lack of progress? 

The report has over 30 contributors from human rights agencies, community organisations, academics, experts and young people from across Australia. The report identifies areas of significant progress, or lack thereof, since that time.

  • Family and care
  • Learning and development
  • Protection and safety
  • Health
  • Justice
  • Identity

The report includes a section putting Children in Focus looking at the particular experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children,  children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, asylum seeker and refugee children and LGBTI children and young people.

Speaker biographies

Ms Megan Mitchell as Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner was made in Canberra on 25 February 2013. This marks a significant step in the protection of children in Australia.
Having commenced her term on 25 March 2013, Megan will focus solely on the rights and interests of children, and the laws, policies and programs that impact on them. Megan has had extensive experience in issues facing children and young people, having worked with children from all types of backgrounds, including undertaking significant work with vulnerable children. She has practical expertise in child protection, foster and kinship care, juvenile justice, children’s services, child care, disabilities, and early intervention and prevention services. Megan’s previous roles include NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People, Executive Director of the ACT Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, Executive Director for Out-of-Home Care in the NSW Department of Community Services and CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service.

The Honourable Alastair Nicholson graduated Melbourne University Law School in 1960 and was admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1961 and signed the Roll of Counsel of the Victorian Bar in 1963. He was appointed Queens Counsel in 1979, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1982-88, and Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and a Justice of the Federal Court of Australia from 1988 until his retirement in 2004. He was Judge Advocate General of the Defence Force from 1987-91 and held the rank of Air Vice Marshal in the RAAF and is an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Alastair has long been a children's rights campaigner. He has chaired several international conferences on child protection and child justice systems, and served as a consultant to the Royal Children's Hospital International Vietnam, and to UNICEF Vietnam. He has also been a consultant to the Queensland Government on legal recognition of Torres Strait Islander traditional child rearing practices. He was the recipient of the Human Rights Award at the Fifth World Congress on Family Law and Children's Rights held in Canada in 2009. He has been an Honorary Professorial Fellow of the University of Melbourne since 2003. He currently Chair of Children's Rights International and in this capacity trained Cambodian judges and others in the justice system in better ways of dealing with children in the court system, since 2007.  This included conducting seminars in Cambodia with UNICEF in November 2015, and bringing a group of Cambodians to Melbourne, headed by the Cambodian Minister of Justice, to look at the Victorian Juvenile Justice system, which in turn led to the Cambodian Government announcing its agreement to introduce a new Juvenile Justice Law this year. He continues to work in partnership UNICEF Australia and others to secure improvements for children seeking asylum in Australia. 

Professor Deborah Brennan, Social Policy Research Centre

Deborah Brennan  PhD, FASSA is Professor in the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), University of New South Wales and adjunct Professor in the Centre for Children and Young People (CCYP), Southern Cross University. Her research focuses on the history and politics of early childhood education and care, family policy and gender and politics.  Deb worked closely with SNAICC and many individuals around Australia to produce Joining the Dots: Program and Funding Options for Integrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Services in 2013. She has provided advice to governments in Australia, Canada and the UK. Her work on the financing of early childhood education and care was widely cited by the Productivity Commission in its inquiry into Child Care and Early Childhood Learning. She is the author of The Politics of Australian Child Care (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and co-editor with Louise Chappell of 'No Fit Place for Women'. Women in New South Wales Politics, 1856-2006 (UNSW Press, 2006) as well as numerous scholarly articles on gender, politics and family policy.


Register Here

Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs
2016 Australian of the Year Awards: inspiring change in human rights
Gillian Triggs, MC Julia Baird, David Morrison AO, Elizabeth Broderick AO, Julian McMahon, Nic Marchesi
Wednesday 1 June 2016

RightsTalk 1 June 2016 Australians of the Year and Gillian Triggs

Each of these impressive Australians has an inspiring story to tell.

Introduced by President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, these Australian of the Year Award Alumni will share their passion around human rights issues.

  •     Gillian Triggs: President, Australian Human Rights Commission
  •     David Morrison AO: equality advocate  -  Australian of the Year
  •     Elizabeth Broderick AO:  social change innovator - NSW Australian of the Year
  •     Julian McMahon: human rights advocate - Vic Australian of the Year
  •     Nic Marchesi: social entrepreneur -  Young Australian of the Year

The Australian of the Year Awards in partnership with the Australian Human Rights Commission, City of Sydney and ABC present this annual event at Sydney Town Hall, broadcast on ABC News 24.

Date and Venue: Wednesday, 1 June, 5.30pm for 6-7pm, Sydney Town Hall.

Cost: RightsTalk is free and open to the general public, however spaces are limited. Please register at the link below. The venue is wheelchair accessible.



RightsTalk May 2016 with Benjamin Law, Helen Kapalos and Rob Shehadie
RightsTalk: Media and Cultural Diversity
Benjamin Law, Helen Kapalos and Rob Shehadie
Monday 30 May 2016

RightsTalk May 2016 with Benjamin Law, Helen Kapalos and Rob Shehadie

Join the Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, on 30 May 2016 for a RightsTalk focussed on media and cultural diversity.

Featuring guest speakers Benjamin Law, Helen Kapalos and Rob Shehadie, the RightsTalk will explore the state of Australian media. Is our media diverse enough? What needs to be done? And will recent debates and controversies be enough to prompt some change?

Benjamin Law is a Sydney-based journalist, columnist and TV screenwriter. He is also the author of two books - The Family Law (2010) and Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012) - both of which were nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards. Mr Law is one of the writers on The Family Law, which has been adapted into a TV show for SBS.

Helen Kapalos chairs the Victorian Multicultural Commission and is an accomplished journalist, presenter, executive producer and filmmaker. During her media career she has worked for all three Australian commercial television networks and the two public broadcasters. Ms Kapalos is also a proud Greek Australian who is passionate about supporting Victoria’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Rob Shehadie is an actor, stand-up comedian and co-creator of the television show Here Come the Habibs. He is also widely known for his role in the TV comedy Fat Pizza which saw him nominated for a TV Week Logie in the category of “Most popular new talent”. Coming from a family with a Lebanese background, Mr Shehadie says his comic inspiration comes from his own life as well as others around him. Before turning to acting and comedy, Mr Shehadie was a full time Rugby Union player, representing Australia and New South Wales in schoolboy, under 19s and under 21s.

Register Here

Prof. Gordian Fulde
RightsTalk: Senior Australian of the Year
Prof. Gordian Fulde
Tuesday 12 April 2016

2016 Senior Australian of the Year

Register Here

Topic: His work and advocacy against alcohol abuse


From midnight to dawn, while most people are in bed, Professor Gordian Fulde is presiding over one of Australia's busiest emergency departments. The Director of Emergency at St Vincent's Hospital and Sydney Hospital for more than three decades, Gordian is the longest serving emergency department director in Australia. The doctor on call when disaster strikes, Gordian has seen it all and is passionately outspoken about the scourge of ‘ice’ and alcohol-fuelled violence which delivers a flood of people into Australian hospitals each weekend. While you will occasionally see him appear on Kings Cross ER, Gordian is also actively involved in teaching and training students and staff in many facets of emergency medicine. A member of the Board of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation, Gordian also supports many schools and community organisations, sharing his stories of working in an urban warzone, and warning of the dangers of a binge drinking culture, which is overwhelmingly the main cause of injury in Australia’s emergency departments.


The venue is wheelchair accessible. If you have any requirements that will assist in your full participation please contact