Lawyers, campaigners and crusaders behind powerful human rights activism in Australia shared their experiences at the frontline for the fight for human rights at the University of New South Wales’ (UNSW) Gandhi Lecture 2020 on 4 February in Sydney. Belinda Henwood, corporate communications at the university, says the lecture titled ‘The Fight for Human Rights’ brought together Australian human rights champions including Pat Anderson, Rosie Batty, Anna Brown, Rosemary Kayess and Shen Narayanasamy.
Despite taking steps towards becoming a more equal and inclusive society for all, Australia’s record on human rights has been recently questioned. Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and more than one woman in Australia are killed every week by a partner or former partner. Over half of Australians living with a disability lack access to the support services they need and the proposed Religious Discrimination Bill threatens to undermine inclusive workplaces for LGBTQI+ people.
Henwood says the human rights champions discussed how to bring about positive and real change through a series of short talks at the Gandhi Lecture 2020. She says Pat Anderson, an Alyawarre woman and powerful advocate for the health of Australia’s First Peoples, shared her extensive experience in community development, advocacy, policy formation and chairing multiple Aboriginal health organisations.
“Rosie Batty has been a tireless crusader against family violence since her son Luke was murdered by his father in 2014. Anna Brown, human rights lawyer and CEO of Equality Australia, has been involved in nearly every major reform for LGBTQI+ people in recent years including playing a crucial role in achieving marriage equality as co-chair of the YES Campaign,” says the university spokesperson.
According to Henwood, Rosemary Kayess, has devoted her career to disability policy and reform, having advised on issues such as housing, education, guardianship and employment. She says Shen Narayanasamy is the human rights campaign director of GetUp, who founded the No Business in Abuse project, targeting corporate involvement in offshore detention of asylum seekers.
“The lecture, which is held close to India’s Martyrs’ Day, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948, was launched in 2012 by the university. It features people making significant contributions to major human rights issues of our time,” says Henwood.