A passion for social justice

Ahead of delivering the ACEM Foundation Lecture at this year’s ASM, Professor Gillian Triggs looks back at her time at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
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In her last public speech before stepping down as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Professor Gillian Triggs remarked that it is vital that all Australians “should stand up and speak out for our fundamental rights in our successful multicultural community”.

It is that passion Gillian will display when she delivers the ACEM Foundation Lecture on 20 November as part of the ACEM 2017 Annual Scientific Meeting, to be held at the at the new Sydney International Conference Centre.

“I think all of us in the community should have a human rights perspective,” Gillian says of her message when she takes to the stage. “In other words, we’re not only talking about a sentimental need to look after people. We are talking about the legal rights of people to have access to medicine…that applies whether you’re talking about a rural practice, big city emergency departments or whether you are working in a developing country in Africa or in the region in places like Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar or Vietnam.

“It is important to realise we are talking about legal rights and therefore we need properly resourced facilities for emergency doctors and we clearly need more research and training for this highly specialised area of emergency medicine.”

Looking back on her time at the AHRC, Gillian says it was a wonderful experience.

“One of the things that remains with me now I have had two or three months to reflect a little on those five years, is what an extraordinary privilege it was to work on a national level,” she says.

The job allowed Gillian to visit an aged care home for Aboriginal stockmen, three hours’ drive out of Katherine. She has also visited Christmas Island three times and immigration detention centres in Villawood, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin, and Brisbane.

One of the things she learned during her role was that Australians have a genuine commitment to a “fair go”. “Australians are very good at understanding that. The concept of a fair go does mean something in Australia. And so to talk about social justice in terms of fairness and equality, it does resonate with Australians,” she says.

And that is what has driven Gillian, who is now the Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at The University of Melbourne, all throughout her career. “I have always had a genuine passion for social justice,” she says.

Gillian will deliver the ACEM Foundation Lecture on 20 November at 3.40pm in the Pyrmont Theatre.

Read more about Gillian below.

ACEM Foundation Chair Dr Simon Judkins says: “Fairness and social justice are values shared by all emergency physicians as they go about providing emergency care to anyone and everyone who needs it, so we are extremely fortunate to have Gillian – one of the most admired statutory office-holders in Australia's history and such a fearless and unflinching advocate for human rights – deliver the ACEM Foundation Lecture.”

A compelling and interactive program

This year’s ASM will be held from 19-23 November. Do not miss the opportunity to attend the ASM and hear speakers like Gillian. Register now! 

Check out the latest news, program and registration details on the ASM website.

Professor Gillian Triggs

Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs was the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission from 2012-2017. She is now the Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at The University of Melbourne.

Gillian was Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney from 2007-12 and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law from 2005-7. Gillian is a former Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers and a Governor of the College of Law.

Gillian graduated in Law from the University of Melbourne in 1968 and gained a PhD in 1982. She has combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice and worked with governments and international organisations advising on including law including human rights law.

She is focused on the implementation in Australian law of the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and on working with nations in the Asia Pacific region on practical approaches to human rights.

Gillian has been a consultant on International Law to King & Wood Mallesons, the Australian representative on the Council of Jurists for the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institutions, Chair of the Board of the Australian International Health Institute, a member of the Attorney General's International Legal Service Advisory Council and Chair of the Council of Australian Law Deans.

She is the author of many books and paper, including International Law: Contemporary Principles and Practices (Second Edition, 2011).

Gillian also served the Commission as Acting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner from 1 August 2016 to 9 February 2017.

Gillian is married to Alan Brown AM, a former Australian diplomat, and has two children and one grandchild.