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Past talks

Suri Ratnapala
RightsTalk: ‘Rights, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Civilisation’
Suri Ratnapala, hosted by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson
Tuesday 10 February 2015

‘Right’, ‘liberty’ and ‘civilisation’ are contested ideas. The nature of civilisation or its absence altogether in a given age depends critically on the kind of rights that prevails in that time. Many civilisations in the past were built on conquest, genocide, slavery and plunder. They produced wondrous monuments, great cities, immortal works of art and even profound philosophy but the condition of the ordinary person was one of abject poverty and servitude. One civilisation alone emancipated unprivileged persons politically and economically on a mass scale. That civilisation is our own. The author contends that liberty founded on a certain conception of right is what distinguishes this civilisation from those of the past. The defence of this achievement is a moral imperative.

Suri Ratnapala is Professor of Public Law at the T C Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law. He teaches constitutional law and jurisprudence, fields in which he has published widely. His recent books include Australian Constitutional Law: Foundations and Theory and Jurisprudence. He is a recipient of a John Templeton Foundation Award for his teaching in political, economic and social theory and a Centenary of Australian Federation Medal for his contribution to Australian society through research in law and economics. He is an Allan McGregor Fellow of the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney. Professor Ratnapala has been a consultant with USAID, AusAid, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank in institutional capacity building projects in Asia.

Rights Ed logo
RightsTalk: Rights in a crowded classroom
Dr Phil Lambert PSM, Justin Mohamed, Annabel Astbury, Jim Asimakopolous OAM
Monday 1 December 2014

Gillian Triggs speaking at launch of RightsEd, 1 December 2014

Audio: Part 1


Audio: Part 2


With the national curriculum once again in focus, it's timely to reflect on the place of human rights in education. Is it the role of schools to teach issues like race relations and disability rights? If so, how? And how can schools engage with human rights and diversity beyond the curriculum? 

Join our panellists:

  • Dr Phil Lambert PSM,  General Manager, Curriculum, Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority
  • Justin Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer, Reconciliation Australia
  • Annabel Astbury, Head, Digital Education, ABC
  • Jim Asimakopolous OAM, Manager, Abilities and Disability Awareness Program, Victorian Department of Education and Training.

The Commission will also be launching its range of new schools education resources on disability, race relations and human rights for maths, geography, history and health/physical education at this event.

Dr Phil Lambert Bio

Phil Lambert

Dr Lambert has extensive experience in education as a principal, inspector, Executive Director, Assistant Director-General, Regional Director and General Manager. He has authored books and presented a number of papers and keynotes at national & international conferences. Phil has a MEd in Educational Administration & Management and completed his doctorate at the University of Sydney.

Phil has received a number of honours, awards and acknowledgements during his career. In the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was awarded the Public Service Medal for his outstanding contribution to education and was acknowledged for his outstanding community work and leadership in a unanimous resolution in the Parliament of NSW. In 2006 he represented NSW at the World Educational Leadership Conference in Boston, USA and in 2010 represented NSW at the World Expo in Shanghai, China. He was a member of the Australian team at the 2013 Global Education Leaders Program held in New Delhi, India and in London this year. At the request of the Brazilian government he travelled to Sao Paulo in May 2014 and in August 2014 travelled to Saudi Arabia at the request of the Public Education Evaluation Commission.

Phil is both an Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney and Adjunct Professor at Nanjing Normal University, China. He was the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Australian College of Educators’ award, the Sir Harold Wyndham Medal.

Phil has many interests and contributes to society in various ways. He has been learning Mandarin since 2009, was an industry judge for the 2013 TV Week Logie Awards and he is a member of the National Rugby League Central Advisory Committee. Phil is also a long standing Board member of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and is Deputy Chair on the Board of the national Foundation to Prevent Violence Against Women and their Children.

Justin Mohamed Bio

Justin Mohamed

Justin Mohamed is a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg in Queensland. He worked with Victorian Aboriginal communities for 20 years before being elected to as Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). Prior to his role at NACCHO, Justin was the inaugural director of the Academy of Sport, Health and Education (ASHE), an initiative of the Rumabalara Football/Netball Club.

He chaired the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and is Co-Chair of the National Health Leadership Forum. He has also held positions on multiple community, state and national working groups, committees and boards and continues to be a director of the Greater Western Sydney Giants Foundation and Chairperson of Ganbina.

Annabel Astbury Bio

Annabel Astbury

Annabel Astbury is Head, Digital Education at the ABC and is working with a great team to deliver ABC Splash which is one of Australia’s leading education sites which now has over 2500 resources mapped to the Australian Curriculum. ABC Splash worked with the Human Rights Commission to produce Choose Your Own Statistics, an interactive way for students to learn about Human Rights issues in Australia and across the world.

Jim Asimakopolous OAM Bio

Jim Asimakopolous

Jim Asimakopolous, AOM,  has lived with Cerebral Palsy all his life.  In 1988 he pioneered the Abilities and Disability Awareness Program with the Department of Education & Early Childhood Development, and has since delivered over 4,600 workshops and spoken to over 130,000 people.

Jim visits schools, community groups and football clubs across Victoria, promoting inclusion in schools and society. As a powerful role model to many students, the aim of his program is to make all people aware of what they can do, not what they can’t do.


Catherine McGreggor
RightsTalk: My Gender Journey
Catherine McGregor, hosted by Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson
Wednesday 19 November 2014

Watch live through YouTube


Direct link:


Group Captain Catherine McGregor is currently serving as the speechwriter and strategic adviser to the Chief of the Air Force. She entered the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1974 and graduated to the Royal Australian Infantry.

Over a career in the Australian Regular Army spanning 40 years, she held a wide variety of regimental and staff appointments. She deployed on operations on three occasions including as the Commanding Officer of the Australian Army Training Team in Timor Leste. She is a Tetum linguist. In 2008, she was a Visiting Fellow to The Leverhulme Changing Character of War Programme at All Souls Oxford University in 2008 and holds a Master of Arts in War Studies from UNSW.

She was awarded the Order of Australia on 26 January 2012 for her exceptional service to The Australian Army. She served continuously as speechwriter to every Chief of the Army since 2000. She has held various appointments in Strategic Policy Branch at Army Headquarters. She transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve in June of this year on promotion to Group Captain

She is a published author and has written on politics and cricket for The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review, The Age She is the Prime Minister’s delegate to the National Selection Panel for selection of The Prime Minister’s XI and is also the Head of Australian Services Women’s cricket. She is still active as a player and coach and will be part of the ABC Grandstand team for the forthcoming summer.

She was recently named as one of Australia’s 50 most powerful women by the Australian Women’s Weekly.

In her earlier life, Cate was well-known as a political commentator whose name was Malcolm. She commenced living as a woman on July 30, 2012 and her story was documented on Australian Story in February 2014. She is now the highest-ranking trans-woman military official in the world.

Tim Soutphommasane
RightsTalk: Casual Racism - what is it and what can we do about it?
Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane
Thursday 16 October 2014


The Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane invites you to a panel discussion about casual racism: what is it and what can we do about it? We all know that racism can take an ugly form. But what about those situations on low-level prejudice and discrimination? Does it matter if someone doesn’t intend to cause offence or hurt? And what effect may casual racism have on community relations at the moment? Join our panellists:

  • Mr Hakan Harman, Chief Executive Officer at Multicultural NSW
  • Ms Mariam Veiszadeh, lawyer, community activist and founder of the Islamophobia Register
  • His Excellency Mr Noel White, Ambassador of Ireland


Hakan Harman - Chief Executive Officer

Hakan HarmanHakan is an experienced Senior Executive in both the Public and Private Sectors. His qualifications include a Bachelor Commerce and Master of Public Administration and he is a Fellow of CPA Australia. His areas of expertise include change management, corporate governance, stakeholder and strategic management and organisational leadership.

He has worked at CBA, Burns Philp, Unilever as well as a number of smaller private organisations including as a Forensic Accountant prior to joining the Public Sector in 2002.

He commenced his career in the NSW Public Sector at the Community Relations Commission For a multicultural NSW (Multicultural NSW) as Director Operations CFO, then worked at the State Library of NSW - which is responsible for the stewardship of priceless collections that record the exploration and settlement of Oceania and Australia - as its Chief Operating Officer.

In January of 2014 he rejoined Multicultural NSW as its Chief Executive Officer and has since led a substantial review of operations and development of a new Vision for Cultural Diversity in NSW.

Hakan is married has one son currently at University.

He loves Football (Soccer) and is passionate about social justice and community harmony and says that he does not consider his work as a job.

Noel White - Ireland’s Ambassador to Australia

Noel WhiteHe is a career diplomat.  Immediately prior to taking up his post in Australia in January 2012, Mr White was the Director of Press and Information at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  He has also served as a Director in Irish Aid, Ireland’s development aid programme.

Previously he has been posted to Brussels where he served for some time in Ireland’s Permanent Representation to the European Union working in a range of policy areas. 

He has also worked as a senior administrator at the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.   

He has served in Luxembourg, and in Strasbourg where he represented Ireland at the Council of Europe. 

In addition to his posting here in Australia, Mr White is accredited to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji.

He is interested in current affairs, and in sports generally.  He is a committed Brumbies’ fan. 

Mr White is married to Nessa Delaney.  They have three children (boys).

Mariam Veiszadeh - lawyer and community rights advocate, an ambassador for Welcome to Australia and the founder of the #WISH Women In Solidarity with Hijabis social media campaign and the Islamophobia Register Australia

Mariam VeiszadehMariam Veiszadeh has established herself as one of most energetic and resourceful young leaders of the Australian Muslim community. Her advocacy has attracted the support of senior politicians, journalists, decision makers and other ordinary Australian who have become strong supporters of the rights of Muslims living in Australia.

Mariam has started numerous campaigns, community initiatives, authored articles, provided media coverage and coordinated community initiatives, all while being a full-time corporate lawyer, mother to an 11-month old and wife. She has worked tirelessly towards advocating for the Muslim community while also bringing the communities different congregations closer together. Mariam has also mentored young Muslims who have shown interest in community work by lending them advice and encouraging them to take a more active role in community initiatives.

Bryan Samuels
RightsTalk: President Barack Obama’s former Advisor on Children
Bryan Samuels, Executive Director, Chapin Hall, University of Chicago: Former Commissioner, US Administration on Children, Youth and Families
Friday 19 September 2014

A copy of his presentation can be downloaded here.


Redefining success for vulnerable children through public systems

Vulnerable children and families are often at the frontline of government interventions. How can we ensure these interventions achieve what they set out to and what levers can be used by decision makers in government and communities to achieve better outcomes?

Bryan Samuels, was until recently the Obama Administration’s highest ranking federal child-welfare policy maker and shares his insights into leading child welfare reform in the USA.

Biography Bryan Samuels

Bryan Samuels is the Executive Director of Chapin Hall, one of the nation’s leading research and policy centers focused on improving the well-being of children and youth, families, and their communities.  Before joining Chapin Hall, Samuels was appointed by President Barack Obama as Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF), making him from 2010-2013 the highest-ranking federal child welfare policymaker in the country.  As ACYF Commissioner, he emphasized the importance of child well-being and the use of data-driven approaches to improve the welfare of vulnerable children and youth.  Samuels has over twenty years of experience in child welfare, including having served as the Chief of Staff of Chicago Public Schools under Arne Duncan and as Director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.  He was also a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration from 1997 to 2003. He has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.