5 February 2024

New Race Discrimination Commissioner appointed

| Chris Johnson
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Giridharan Sivaraman will be Australia’s next Race Discrimination Commissioner. Photo: Supplied.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has appointed the chair of the Board of Multicultural Australia, Giridharan Sivaraman, as the nation’s next Race Discrimination Commissioner.

Mr Sivaraman is also a principal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and a member of the Multicultural Queensland Advisory Council.

He will take up his new role on Monday, 4 March, for a five-year term.

“I congratulate Mr Sivaraman on his appointment and thank him for taking on this important role,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“His comprehensive understanding and demonstrated passion in the race discrimination and human rights space will be a great asset to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“The Race Discrimination Commissioner is responsible for combatting all forms of racial discrimination and promoting understanding, tolerance and harmony across all sectors of Australian society.”

Mr Sivaraman’s appointment fills the vacancy resulting from the conclusion of Chin Tan’s appointment.

The Attorney-General thanked Mr Tan for his contribution during his term, and Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher, president of the AHRC, for acting in the role throughout the merit-based selection process.

On behalf of the AHRC, Professor Croucher welcomed the appointment of Mr Sivaraman.

“We are very excited by this appointment. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to warmly welcome Giridharan Sivaraman to the role of Race Discrimination Commissioner,” she said.

“For decades, the fight for systemic equality and speaking truth to power have been at the heart of Mr Sivaraman’s work.

“His distinguished legal career has seen him lead significant cases in workplace and discrimination law which, coupled with his public advocacy for the rights of racially marginalised communities, has led to tangible results that have improved and empowered people’s lives.”

Mr Sivaraman has run numerous state and national race discrimination cases and led the pro bono compensation scheme for underpaid 7-Eleven workers, many of whom came from migrant backgrounds.

As a member of the Queensland Multicultural Advisory Council, Mr Sivaraman appeared at a state parliamentary inquiry to demand legal reform to better protect the rights of victims of racial vilification, while his work with Multicultural Australia oversees the continued and extensive support provided to new arrivals in Queensland.

In his advocacy, he also committed to protecting and promoting the rights of First Nations peoples.

“Mr Sivaraman is a widely respected champion of racial equity. His lived experience, passion for diversity and inclusion, and deep understanding of human rights and Australian discrimination law means he will be a powerful asset for the Commission during what is very much a delicate time in the country,” Professor Croucher said.

“There has been a marked increase in reports of racism and hate speech in recent months, and it is therefore vital that we amplify efforts to empower communities to address racism at its root causes and continue our public campaign to take action to combat racism.

“This is difficult, but critical work to do, and Commissioner Sivaraman will lead the way in this area as we help make Australia a more respectful and equitable place for all people, regardless of their background.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory organisation, established by an act of Federal Parliament to protect and promote human rights in Australia and internationally.

It is Australia’s national human rights institution and monitors and scrutinises Australia’s performance in meeting its international human rights commitments. It provides regular reports to the United Nations.

The Commission investigates discrimination and human rights complaints, advocates to government and others for human rights to be considered in laws and policy making, and promotes awareness of human rights in Australia.

It holds national inquiries and provides legal advice on human rights obligations to courts and can appear as a ‘friend of the court’ to provide specialist advice in discrimination cases.

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