Dr Helen Watchirs to stay on as ACT Human Rights Commission president

Ian Bushnell 27 September 2021 8
ACT Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs

ACT Human Rights Commissioner Dr Helen Watchirs. Photo: ACT Human Rights Commission.

Key figures at the ACT Human Rights Commission (ACTHRC) have been reappointed in their roles.

ACTHRC president Dr Helen Watchirs will stay on in the role she took up in 2016 for a further two years. She was appointed as Commissioner in 2004.

ACT Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne welcomed the continuing role Dr Watchirs will play in defending the rights all residents in the ACT under the Territory’s Human Rights Act 2004.

Ms Cheyne also announced the reappointments of Karen Toohey as Discrimination, Health Services, Disability and Community Services Commissioner, and Jodie Griffiths-Cook as Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner for five years.

“The experience of these Commissioners is invaluable to protect and promote the human rights of all members of the Canberra community, particularly as challenges arise from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ms Cheyne.

“The reappointments also mean there is continuity as the Human Rights Commission works to fully implement the recommendations of the Protection of Rights Services Review.”

In 2016, a range of changes were made to protection of rights agencies in the ACT, including expanding the ACT Human Rights Commission to include the Public Advocate, Victims of Crime Commissioner and Victim Support ACT, as well as providing the Public Trustee and Guardian with Guardianship functions.

The legislation provided that there would be a review of how these changes were working, and this was conducted by Insight Consulting Australia.

The three reappointments take effect in October 2021.


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8 Responses to Dr Helen Watchirs to stay on as ACT Human Rights Commission president
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Acton Acton 11:55 am 29 Sep 21

What are these Commissioners doing to protect and promote the human rights of members of the Canberra community, as challenges arise from the ongoing pandemic?

There has been silence from the Humans Rights Commissioner during the unprecedented restrictions and limitations of our civil and human rights. What is the point of having a Human Rights Commissioner if he/she does not advocate for those rights when most needed?

Here are some of the civil and political rights contained in the ACT’s Human Rights Act 2004 that Dr Watchirs is failing to protect or speak out on in her job as the Human Rights Commissioner:

8 Recognition and equality before the law
Everyone is equal before the law and is entitled to the equal protection of the law without discrimination. In particular, everyone has the right to equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground.

13 Freedom of movement
Everyone has the right to move freely within the ACT and to enter and leave it, and the freedom to choose his or her residence in the ACT.

14 Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief

15 Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
(1) Everyone has the right of peaceful assembly.
(2) Everyone has the right to freedom of association.

16 16 Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference.

27A Right to education
Every child has the right to have access to free, school education appropriate to his or her needs.

27B Right to work and other work-related rights

    Futureproof Futureproof 12:49 pm 29 Sep 21

    You’ve ruined their day. Now they’ll have to switch off Netflix, remote on and do some work

MERC600 MERC600 10:09 am 29 Sep 21

Anybody know how much it costs to run our HRC, and what are the staffing levels ?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:41 am 29 Sep 21

    The 2020 Annual Report is online – it appears that they spent over $10 million on resolving inequities but appears to be little or no info on how much it cost to run.

    There are lots of acronyms in the report and the top four positions are held by women.

    So much for gender equity.

Ian Ian 11:30 pm 28 Sep 21

I’d be fascinated to know specifically what tangible results have been delivered by these roles, and others like them, for example the international engagement one that was invented for Brendan Smyth.

franky22 franky22 4:55 pm 28 Sep 21

A total waste of space. Can anyone show me evidence that people living in states that don’t have a HRC are in any way disadvantaged.

Futureproof Futureproof 7:22 am 28 Sep 21

Why exactly, does the ACT, population smaller than the average LGA in Sydney, need this position? I can only guess that she would be on more dime than the Chief Minister. You see him everyday. Her salary can go a long way to helping Canberrans. doing it hard – something I don’t think she has any problem with. Scrap the position

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 8:51 am 28 Sep 21

    I agree, but also scrap the other 5 “tag along” positions. It’s all symbolism and virtue signaling.

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