This Week’s Human Rights News

By Bec Devitt
Right Now Radio Logo

10 November 2011

Release of report on women’s treatment in the ADFA

The Australian Sex discrimination Commissioner has released a report that examines the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA). The review found that the treatment of women has significantly improved in the ADFA since deficiencies were identified in the late 1990s. Despite this, the review identified widespread low level sexual harassment, inadequate residential supervision and cumbersome complaints processes. One former female cadet told the review “among cadets there was a culture of commodification of women particularly as sexual objects.” The review provides a number of recommendations to improve women’s experiences in the ADFA. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick stated that “ADFA need to move from an attitude of managing and accommodating women, to an attitude of full inclusion of women, where they are recognised as a vital part of the future capability of the Australian Defence Force.”

The full report can be found here.

Corrections Victoria staff to be given controversial extra powers

It has been reported that public servants employed by Corrections Victoria will be granted new powers to impose curfews on offenders and to impose extra hours of unpaid community service under a bill progressing through State Parliament. Concerns have been raised about the appropriateness of mid-level public servants making these decisions and imposing penalties without referring the case back to the Courts.  Incoming Law Institute president Michael Holcroft told The Age that the new powers “effectively make the corrections officers the judge, jury and executioner.”

New national voice to represent Indigenous Health

The National Health Leadership Forum has been elected to be the national representative voice to Governments on Indigenous Health. The NHLF is part of the national Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Mick Gooda, the Campaign Co-Chair and Social Justice Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission said the announcement is “a turning point for Indigenous peoples” and the Close the Gap Campaign has welcomed the change. Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Warren Snowden said the cooperative nature of the Leadership Forum and the national plan for Indigenous Health will “address the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” Mr Snowden also pointed out the need to cover other factors that can impact on health such as “housing, education and early childhood development,” issues that were highlighted by the Productivity Commission’s August report on Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage.

AB v Western Australia

The High Court has delivered a unanimous judgement confirming the right of transgender people to have their gender recognised after undergoing medical procedures, regardless of whether their reproductive organs have been altered. The case involving two female to male transsexuals argued “they should not have to go through dangerous genital reconstruction surgery to be considered male.” The High Court held that recognition is based on ‘social recognition’ and depends on gender characteristics being altered ‘sufficiently’ to be ‘identified’ as being part of the opposite sex. The High Court ruling overturned a decision by the Western Australian Gender Reassignment Board, which had rejected the transsexuals attempts to be recognised as men on their birth certificates. WA Gender Project spokesperson Aram Hosie said the decision would “make it much easier for transsexual people in Western Australia to obtain documentation that accurately reflects their identity” who in the past have faced discrimination, harassment and violence.

The judgement can be found here.

Australian man mistreated while being held in Israeli detention

It has been alleged that an Australian man being held in Israeli detention was mistreated. The Sydney man was on board a flotilla that was intercepted on its way to Gaza. It is alleged that people on board were violently manhandled and tasers were used. John Coleman, the father of the Sydney man held in detention, said his son Michael had told him “that when the soldiers bordered the boat he was personally assaulted.” The news comes two months after the UN released a report accusing the Jewish state of acting with excessive force during a flotilla raid in 2010.

Don’t forget to tune in to Right Now Radio at 6pm tonight on 3CR 855AM to hear all more about these human rights news items. You can also stream live at

After strike action against Qantas in recent weeks brought the nation to a stop, on this week’s show Right Now Radio will be talking about workers’ rights in Australia. We’ll be speaking with Gabrielle Marchetti from Jobwatch and Siobhan Keating from Maurice Blackburn about some of the major issues currently facing workers in Australia and how these impact on the right to work, conditions of work and the right to strike.