G'day guys,

Today I pay respects to the winners of the Australian Human Rights Awards for 2013.The Human Rights Medal is awarded to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of human rights in Australia. The medal has a rich history of prestigious winners. 

The finalists for 2013 were:

Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu

Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu is a Yolgnu woman from the Rirratjingu clan who has worked by the side of her husband, Dr Yunupingu, but has also forged her own path fighting for the rights of Yolgnu children to have a bilingual education and to establish the ‘two-way learning’ philosophy at the Yirrkala Community Education Centre. Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu was one of the first Indigenous people from her community to fully qualify as a teacher. She is an inspiring educator and leader who speaks 16 languages in addition to English and Rirratjingu. The Federal Parliamentary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affair Committee’s recent inquiry into Indigenous youth in the criminal justice system emphasised the importance of language as a way to connect Indigenous youth to culture and to strengthen intergenerational relationships. These findings are consistent with Gurruwun (Yalmay) Yunupingu’s approach. She calls herself a “Yesterday’s Leader”, aware that only by knowing and engaging with the past, through living culture and language, can there be a real conversation with the future.

Graham Long, Pastor, The Wayside Chapel

Graham Long has been pastor of The Wayside Chapel since 2004 and has implemented a number of programs that reach out to Indigenous Australians, young people, and people experiencing mental illness. “At the Wayside, we tell people they are not ‘problems’ to be solved but rather ‘people’ to be met. We know we have had a good day is someone walks out our front door feeling ‘met’ rather than ‘worked on’,” says Pastor Long. The Wayside’s Aboriginal Project provides culturally sensitive support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and creates opportunities for leadership and mentoring. The Wayside’s Day to Day Living Program teaches social skills to people experiencing long-term and persistent mental health issues. The Wayside Youth Project supports young people at risk, offering a drop-in service and opportunities to learn living skills. The fourth program Pastor Long has implemented at Wayside is the Community Development Project, which creates opportunities for all members of the community to come together for activities that help reduce social isolation and promote togetherness.

Sister Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is the Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict. Sister Clare has been with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan for about 40 years. Under her leadership, the Sisters of the Good Samaritan have helped provide emergency housing for women and children experiencing domestic violence and have strongly supported self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Near Alice Springs, the Sisters work and live at Santa Teresa (Ltyentye Apurte), which is home to about 600 Aboriginal people.  The Sisters work with local women on an Aboriginal painting and silk venture.  This provides some income for the women and according to the local health centre makes a “significant contribution to the health, mental and emotional well-being of people in the community”. Sister Clare’s ability to make a difference is underpinned by her capacity to keep her eye on the big picture. She is never afraid to take her message directly to Government, relentlessly lobbying politicians to help those in need.

Richard Frankland

Richard Frankland is a Gunditjmara man who has worked as a soldier, musician, author, screenwriter, director and trainer. His training and community-building work has embraced Indigenous issues such as lateral violence, cultural safety, healing, and family. In the late 1980s he co-founded Songlines Aboriginal Music Corporation and he served on the board of that organisation for over ten years. He was also instrumental in forming Defenders of Native Title, which later became Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation. In 1999, inspired by a family member, Harry Saunders, who lost his life of the Kokoda Trail, Richard wrote and directed Harry’s War, a ground-breaking film about Indigenous contributions to Australia’s theatres of war. Richard also wrote and directed the award-winning No Way To Forget, which became the first film by an Indigenous director to win an Australian Film Institute award. In 2011, Richard worked with a handful of Indigenous elders to create the 1000 Warrior Walk through Melbourne. 

The march empowers participants to reclaim themselves as men in the eyes of their tribes and families. “We are not a problem people,” he says, “we are people with a problem and that problem was colonisation.”


Young People’s Human Rights Medal: Mariah Kennedy.

Ms Kennedy is a Young Ambassador for UNICEF and the author of the children’s book, Reaching Out, Messages of Hope. At just 16 years of age, Ms Kennedy approached some of Australia’s best loved children’s authors and illustrators for contributions to the book, which addresses social justice issues such as child labour, refugee rights and global poverty. In June 2013, Mariah’s extraordinary anthology was published by Harper Collins with all proceeds going to UNICEF.

Law Award: Professor Andrea Durbach.

Professor Andrea Durbach is a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales, and Director of the Human Rights Law Centre. Prior to joining UNSW, she spent 13 years at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC). Before coming to Australia, Professor Durbach, represented 25 black defendants in the notorious Upington death penalty case in South Africa.

Business Award: Freedom Housing.

Freedom Housing allows people with disabilities and their families to live under the same roof in homes that are privately-owned or leased. Freedom Housing operates in line with the rights and values espoused in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Community Organisation Award: The National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.

The National Centre for Indigenous Excellence provides a safe and innovative space for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to participate in life-changing programs.

Community Individual Award: Carolyn Frohmader.

Carolyn Frohmader has made a significant contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights for women and girls with disabilities. She is executive director of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA).

Radio Award: Carol Dowling, Noongar Radio Perth, for The State of Our Children’s Hearing(30-part series).

Ms Dowling’s 30-part series highlights the prevalence of ear disease among Noongar communities in Western Australia.

Print and Online Media Award: Debra Jopson, The Global Mail, for Rock Art At Risk.

Ms Jopson’s series investigates the demise of rock art sites across the nation. As a result of the articles, the NSW government took action to protect two rock art sites in the Blue Mountains. 

Television Award: Naomi Chainey, Elvira Alic, Phineas Meere for No Limits.

No Limits is a disability-focussed program that engages with current news and issues by hosting panel discussions, commentary and comedy. It has had a strong positive effect in giving people with disability a voice in the media.

Literature Award : Ranjana Srivastava for Dying for a Chat (Penguin Special)

Thanks to the stunning advances of modern medicine, life for many Australians is prolonged at all costs. But as Dying for a Chat shows, these life-saving measures can cause harm and suffering when used inappropriately.

  Sister Clare Condon and Ian Thorpe.

The almost 2-metre-tall swimmer, who won the 2012 Human Rights Medal for his work with Indigenous children, towered over the diminutive nun from the Sisters of the Good Samaritan who had just heard she was this year’s Human Rights Medal winner.

“I feel physically very small next to Ian,” Sister Clare said. “I think his toe wouldn’t even fit into one of my shoes.'

“But gathered here amongst you and so many people committed to human rights, especially the other three finalists that were standing for this honour, and all those acknowledged here tonight, I feel very humbled and inadequate in receiving this award.”

 Over 350 people had gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney on 10 December for the Human Rights Awards. The Australian Human Rights Commission hosted the awards, on International Human Rights Day, to acknowledge and celebrate Australians from all walks of life who work tirelessly to advance and protect human rights.

Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs, presented ten Human Rights Awards, including the Young People’s Human Rights Medal, won by Mariah Kennedy; and the Law Award, won by Professor Andrea Durbach.

Sister Clare said she accepted the 2013 Human Rights Medal on behalf of all the Sisters of the Good Samaritan who have served human rights in Australia for 156 years.

“In particular, I accept it for those who visit the detention centres at Villawood, Maribyrnong in Victoria and Leonora in Western Australia.

“I accept it for those who live alongside the people of Palm Island in North Queensland, Santa Teresa in Northern Territory and Three Springs in Western Australia, to befriend and to work alongside Indigenous people.

“I accept it for those who work at the Good Samaritan Inn for women from the streets, women who are from domestic violence and have nowhere to stay. And for all those from Good Samaritan Education particularly – and there are some here this evening – who educate for justice in our country.

“But most of all I think I receive it on behalf of those sisters – some of them in their 80s – who befriend the stranger in their neighbourhood and on a daily basis respect the integrity and dignity of each person and of creation.

“And for those who live in the more remote areas of Australia, in Kiribati in the Pacific, and in Bacolod in the Philippines.

“We are grassroots people; we’re ordinary people.'

“Tonight I acknowledge the important work of the Human Rights Commission here in Australia and the lead it takes in advocating against discrimination of any kind in our Australian community. 

“Such advocacy continues to be necessary and important as ever in our region as thousands of asylum seekers and refugees seek refuge in our country and other countries.

“So I thank you for honouring the Sisters of the Good Samaritan this evening. May we continue to work for the dignity of every person that comes into our orbit here in Australia or elsewhere.

“On Human Rights Day it is significant that we honour today the memorial service of Nelson Mandela, a giant in our times for the struggle for the basic human rights of his people.”

Clancy's comment: Well done to all recipients.

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