3 August 2021

Human Rights Commissioner moving on to professorship

| Ian Bushnell
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Edward Santow

Former Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow. Photo: ANU.

Edward Santow has finished his five-year term as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner and will take up a professorship at the University of Technology Sydney in September.

Mr Santow was appointed as Human Rights Commissioner in August 2016, bringing to the role his experience as chief executive of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Law School and research director at the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law.

The Australian Human Rights Commission said he had brought a keen sense of empathy and detailed understanding of the law, ethics and political reform to the role, particularly in the areas of refugees and migration, including in reports like Management of COVID-19 risks in immigration detention, and the plight of the Sri Lankan Murugappan family from Biloela; human rights issues affecting LGBTIQ+ people; counter-terrorism and national security; freedom of expression; and implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).

It said one of his landmark pieces of work had been the recent Human Rights and Technology Final Report, which was the culmination of a three-year national initiative with stakeholders across government, business, disability and technology sectors.

The report’s recommendations will help ensure that new technologies are developed and used in ways that are inclusive, accountable and have robust human rights safeguards.

Mr Santow said on the AHRC’s website that sometimes the Commission’s human rights work was hard and sometimes unpopular, “but it is vital to Australia living out its liberal democratic values”.

“The staff of the Commission work tirelessly to make our country fairer, safer and more equal,” he said.

“It has been an honour to work shoulder to shoulder with such dedicated and skilful colleagues, and with so many in the Australian community who strive to uphold the human rights of everyone, everywhere, every day.”

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Commission President Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher said Mr Santow had been a powerful advocate of the institutional voice of the Australian Human Rights Commission, particularly through his work in human rights and technology.

“Over the course of his five-year tenure, Ed has challenged and changed the course of human rights and technology in Australia,” Professor Croucher said.

“He leaves a significant and enduring legacy.”

It wished him well as he continues his work as Industry Professor, Responsible Technology at UTS to promote ethical development in artificial intelligence.

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