Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW

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ACHRA conference 2015 

Published: 10 Nov. 2015

The Australian Council of Human Rights (ACHRA) Conference was hosted by Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW on the 29-30 October 2015. ​

image of host, attendees and presenters
Picture 1: (from left) Stepan Kerkyasharian - ADB President, Charles Madden - ​Gadigal Elder, Steve Mark - Chair of the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists​, Gerardo de Liseo - ADB Regional Manager

The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW was pleased to host this year’s event, with the theme of Developing Your Human Rights Toolkit.  The aim of the conference was to gather information and share knowledge of the human rights industry from our greatest resource: the experience and expertise that the staffs of each of our organisations have developed over the years.
Attendees included officers from human rights and anti-discrimination authorities from different states and agencies who gathered to consider a number of issues of common concern and interest in relation to anti-discriminations laws and human rights violations.

Speakers:

The keynote speaker for the ACHRA conference was Steve Mark AM who was the President of the  Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW from 1988-1994.
 ​

achra_steve_m.jpg​​​Topic: Conflict resolution

​Steve discussed ideas on conflict. He said we can’t avoid conflict but should use it as a normal process.  When two tribes are attacking one another, the way to bring them together is to say, ‘you’re both good’.  He said the future lies in being facilitators of social conversations. 

Steve also defined racism as follows: 
  • because of their ethnicity,  a person or group believes that they are better than others, and
  • because of their racial pride they believe that they deserve the spoils of society, and
  • they believe that they are entitled to oppress and suppress others to get them.   

​​​​​Picture 2:  Steve Mark Chair of the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists

​​​More information on Steve Mark


​Topic: Deep Democracy

Julie Whitmore from the ACT Human Rights Commission was another speaker at the conference. She discussed the issue of bullying, saying that; the bully is not the problem – a practical resolution approach to resolving conflict and tension in workplace is to allow voices to be heard from both parties. 

Julie quoted Myrna Lewis’ method of ‘Deep Democracy’, which sprang out of the change from apartheid to democracy in South Africa, as ‘a facilitative method that allows voices to be heard’. The theory acknowledgers that if people don’t have a voice in a decision or are outvoted, their feelings go underground and will result in resistance or tension. 

Julie further outlined that, conflict is a healthy component of diversity. Allowing people to express their views is respect, avoiding conflict is the problem. Tension can be reduced collaboratively. She also highlighted that change requires leadership. 

She said, ‘if you are not comfortable letting people have their say, you have the potential to become a bully, and managers need to be able to say: “this is what I think, what do you think?”’

More information on Julie’s ‘deep democracy’ discussions


Topic: Racism and Anti-Discrimination messages

Another speaker was Winnifed Louis who is Associate Professor at the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology. Winnifed highlighted issues on racism and anti-discrimination messages. She said: ‘Giving a hostile audience anti-discrimination messages can make them more hostile’.  ‘If you want to change a bigot, the softer the message is the better it is’.

Winnifed also suggested that a senior member of the group should respond to the bigots when conflicts arise, and not the victim. So how does one respond to bigots particularly on the issue of racism? She advised articulating a common identity. For example, if you have a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim woman, say ‘we women always get judged on we look’.

Picture 3: Winnifred Louis​ - Associate Professor University of Queensland’s School of Psychology

More information on Winnifed Louis

​Perspectives on Racial Discrimination Act (AHRC)​

Other topics discussed: ​

  • Gender identity and sport
  • National Inquiry on Children in Detention Centres 
  • Communicating effectively with the public
  • Project to promote rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
  • Latest Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) conciliation resource that adopted conflict coaching approach
  • Using neuroscience to tweak the conciliation process
  • AHRC report on the National Inquiry on Employment Discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disabilities.
  • Equity in relation to superannuation for Indigenous Australians
  • Four key levers that impact cultural well-being
  • Report by the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Queensland (ADCQ) on a project for Sudanese migrants
  • Lessons learned and future of AHRC Anti-Racism Strategy – It Stops With Me campaign
  • Office of Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Tasmania report on indirect discrimination​