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Freedoms – particularly freedom is speech – have not been far from the headlines over the last year.
The Australian Government believes there is a conflict between protecting our freedoms and protecting us against discrimination.
Though we live in a country where most people think or assume our freedoms are protected, it is little understood that Australia is unique among comparable legal systems – that we have few constitutional or legislative protections for the freedoms we take for granted and which, for the most part, are protected in our daily lives.
The contrast between the way human rights are treated in Australia and the way they are treated, for example, in Europe and North America is quite stark.
But do people in Australia really feel their freedoms are at risk because too much time is spent fighting discrimination? What freedoms are being restricted and for whom? What, if anything should be done to change this picture?
Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs is the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, appointed by the Commonwealth Attorney-General for a five year term in 2012.
Professor Triggs was Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney from 2007-12 and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law from 2005-7. She is a former Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers and a Governor of the College of Law.
Gillian graduated in Law from the University of Melbourne in 1968 and gained a PhD in 1982. She has combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice and worked with governments and international organizations on human rights law. She is focusing her Presidency on the implementation in Australian law of the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and to work with nations in the Asia Pacific region on practical approaches to human rights.
With her long-standing commitment to legal education, Gillian is strengthening the Commission’s efforts to inform Australians, especially children, about their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
She has been a consultant on International Law to Mallesons Stephen Jaques, a Board Member of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH), the Australian representative on the Council of Jurists for the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institutions, Chair of the Board of the Australian International Health Institute, a member of the Attorney General’s International Legal Service Advisory Council and Chair of the Council of Australian Law Deans.
Gillian Triggs is married to Alan Brown AM, a former Australian diplomat, and has two children. She lives in Sydney.