For a night celebrating human right achievements in Australia, the weather started off gloomily with heavy rain and thunderstorm at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney.
Once inside, I began observing the audience and atmosphere. The room was packed to the brim, with almost 100-150 people. I was so pleased to be amongst my “tribe”, other fellow human rights defenders.
For the most part, I enjoyed listening to the speeches by the winners, as well as the commissioners. But sipping champaign and wine, whilst listening to human rights stories just felt wrong to me. I couldn’t equate ostentatiousness with human rights issues.
Nevertheless, the night saw some amazing human rights champions.
Susan Ryan AO, the Age and Disability Commissioner started the night with a tribute to the late Stella Young. This particular line resonated with me, when Susan said this of the late Stella, “She doesn’t want to be an inspiration, but wanted more call to action.”
She then went on to showcase an awareness campaign aimed at highlighting the value of older workers.
Gillian Triggs, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, was the next speaker and she summarised two areas the Commission is looking to work on in 2015: the first, working with businesses to improve human rights issue, and secondly, a stronger focus on domestic violence and bullying.
Next, Senator George Brandis took stage and the biggest highlight from his speech was announcing the government’s plan to release all children in detention on Christmas Island by early next year.
He then went to announce the reappointment of Mick Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and hopes to work with Mick on a referendum on Indigenous rights, which will be announced in two years.
But as Senator Brandis wrapped up his address, he was interrupted by former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks, who shouted from the audience: “Hey, my name is David Hicks. I was tortured for five-and-a-half years in Guantanamo Bay in the full knowledge of your party. What do you have to say?”
Hicks later told reporters that Senator Brandis was a “coward” for walking off the stage without addressing his question.
From all the speeches, it was the winner of the Community Organisation Award, Transgender Victoria, that got the crowd cheering loudly for their arousing speech.
A big congratulations to the big winner of the night, the 2015 Human Rights Medal to Dorothy Hoddinott AO.
For more info on all the winners, head here.
Kevin Bathman is Right Now’s arts editor.