Father Frank Brennan to lead human rights consultation panel

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

9 January 2009: Jesuit priest and Professor of Law at Australian Catholic University (ACU National), Father Frank Brennan, has been appointed to lead a Government consultation panel on whether the country needs a bill of rights.

He will be joined by former SBS newsreader Mary Kostakidis, Indigenous barrister Tammy Williams and former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland announced the panel last month on the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He said the consultation would foster debate among Australians on how human rights and responsibilities can be better recognised and protected - and will report to the Government by 31 July 2009. 

“Whatever views are presented, we want to hear from as many Australians as possible and to stimulate a national discussion about this important topic,” Mr McClelland said.

“The consultation does not presuppose any outcome, although the Government has made it clear that any proposal must preserve the sovereignty of Parliament. We want to encourage broad community debate on a range of human rights issues, not only on whether a Charter or Bill of Rights is necessary.”

Father Brennan, who is now based at the Canberra campus to assist with the setting up of ACU National’s new public policy centre, said: "I am delighted and honoured to have the opportunity to serve the community in this new role, reflecting on how best to protect human rights in contemporary Australia.

“In the past, some church people feared talk of human rights. Now such rights are seen to be consistent with the Church's long hallowed social teachings, enhancing the human dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable."

Father Brennan was the founding Director of the Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre in Sydney and has written extensively on aboriginal land rights. In 1995, he was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to Indigenous Australians and was named a Living National Treasure in 1998 for his work on the Wik native title debate.