The winners of the 2018 Human Rights Awards were announced yesterday at an event held at Sydney’s Westin Hotel, attended by almost 600 people and hosted by Australian Human Rights Commission President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher and the Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar, Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins, Human Rights Commissioner Edward Santow, Age Discrimination Commissioner Kay Patterson and Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan.

Catia Malaquias won the Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Community Individual Award for her work in relation to equality, human rights and inclusion of Australians with disabilities and in particular the human right to inclusive education.  Catia is the founder of Starting With Julius and co-founder of All Means All – The Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education and the School Inclusion Parent Network (SIPN).  She also co-founded the Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment and sits on the boards of the Attitude Foundation and Down Syndrome Australia.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Alastair McEwin (left) with Catia Malaquias (right)

You can watch Catia’s acceptance speech (video courtesy of Australian Human Rights Commission) here:


Here is the text:

Thank you, I am so honoured to receive this award and I’d like to acknowledge all the outstanding finalists, and thank the Australian Human Rights Commission for this recognition.

I would also like also to thank and acknowledge all the people who support me to do this work – family and friends, but in particular my husband Sam and my 3 children, Laura, Julius and Drea.  They’re not here today but they know too well the juggle that is advocacy, a separate day job and meeting the needs of a young family. 

Last but not least, I thank the disability community for the immense privilege of allowing me to stand with you for disability rights – your guidance, knowledge and generosity in sharing your perspectives have been critical to me both as a parent and as an advocate.

I’d like to shout out to all the inclusionistas– disabled people and families speaking up for the right of every child, including children with disabilities, to an inclusive education. A right that is recognised under international human rights law applicable to Australia; but which remains widely contested and frequently violated.

Inclusive education IS a human right; it’s the right to a universally accessible education system that responds to the diversity of ALL children; it’s the right to receive supports and accommodations in regular classrooms, in neighbourhood schools; it’s the right not to be segregated, in “special” places for “special” people, an insidious discriminatory practice that paves the way for life-long exclusion, marginalisation and disempowerment.

Inclusion is not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN.  And that “when” depends on all of us – it will happen when we all commit to supporting equality and ending discrimination against people with disabilities – when we call out systems and policies that not only facilitate, but still promote segregation and exclusion of disabled people in education, employment and other settings – when we commit to real opportunity and access, for everyone, at every level. 

Thank you.

The award was presented by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar

Professor Croucher also announced a 2019 National Summit on Human Rights and congratulated all the finalists and the award recipients.

“We are proud to recognise the outstanding contribution of individuals and organisations in promoting and protecting human rights and freedoms.”

The prestigious 2018 Human Rights Medal was awarded to the Honourable Justice Peter McClellan AM and Chrissie Foster, for their contribution to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Chrissie Foster has long campaigned for justice for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse and Justice McClellan led the five-year Royal Commission for five years. They both highlighted that child sexual abuse is a community problem requiring a whole of community response.

“We must to all we can to protect children…. And stop it from happening again,” said Justice McClellan.”

Saxon Mullins was awarded the Young People’s Human Rights Medal for her work in relation to the reform of sexual assault laws in New South Wales. Saxon told her story of sexual assault on national television which led to a review of New South Wales laws.

“I’m so glad that we live in a society where we are more willing to listen to women, but with that I can’t forget the reason that I’m up here. And I think the root cause of that is something we can all change.”

Other 2018 Human Rights Award winners are:

  • Community Organisation AwardAustralian Marriage Equality, for its work in championing the rights of LGBTI+ Australians and in the successful campaign for marriage equality.
  • Racism It Stops With Me Award: Nyadol Nyuon, a Melbourne based lawyer who is an advocate for the African-Australian community.
  • Media Award: NITV, for “Guilty of being stolen”, a powerful investigation which revealed that many children taken into state care — including Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed from their families — acquired a criminal record as a result. 
  • Law Award: Professor Andrew Byrnes, who is one of Australia’s leading academics on human rights who has championed gender equality, the death penalty, older persons and disability rights.
  • Business Award: Konica Minolta Australia, for its leadership on modern slavery though its Ethical Sourcing Roadmap, that prioritises contracts with ethical suppliers.
  • Government Award: Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation, for their ground-breaking human rights policy and Reconciliation Action Plan, the first for a major sporting event in Australia.

You can read more on the website of the Australian Human Rights Commission: Winners announced – 2018 Human Rights Awards