Only Human: 70 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Only Human: 70 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In December 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, setting out a standard of basic rights and freedoms inherent and inalienable to all human beings across the globe.

Seventy years later, we look back on this revolutionary moment and reflect on the status and progress of human rights today. Our panel of experts, including Ruth Barson, Nyadol Nyuon, Hugh de Kretser and Damian Griffis, discuss some of Australia’s human rights failings – the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and offshore detention for asylum seekers, in particular – within the context of the global progress towards improved human rights.

Who are the critics, and what are the criticisms, of the theoretical and legal framework of human rights? And what does it mean when our elected representatives openly flout our obligations?

Presented in partnership with the Human Rights Law Centre.


Portrait of Ruth Barson

Ruth Barson

Ruth Barson has worked to advance the human rights of people enmeshed in the criminal justice system for over a decade. She leads the Human Rights Law Centre’s work advocating for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and children and adults in jails across Australia.

Ruth’s recent work includes High Court challenges to excessive police lock-up powers; and state and territory Supreme Court challenges to unfair imprisonment and detention laws. Ruth has also led the Centre’s advocacy in relation to youth justice; deaths in custody; inhuman conditions in detention; and racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

Portrait of Nyadol Nyuon

Nyadol Nyuon

Nyadol Nyuon is a commercial litigator with Arnold Bloch Leibler and a community advocate.  

She was born in a refugee camp in Itang, Ethiopia, and raised in Kakuma Refugee camp, Kenya. At eighteen, Nyadol moved to Australia as a refugee. Since then she has completed a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Melbourne.

Outside her work, and through the experiences of her family and community, Nyadol has developed an interest in issues concerning human rights, multiculturalism, the settlement of refugees and those seeking asylum. She has volunteered extensively in relation to these areas has worked with governmental and non-governmental organisations. 

In both 2011 and 2014, Nyadol was nominated as one of the hundred most influential African Australians. She is currently a board member of the Melbourne University Social Equity Institute.

Portrait of Hugh de Kretser

Hugh de Kretser

Hugh de Kretser is the Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre. He has worked on family violence, sexual assault and criminal justice issues for over a decade across his current role and previously as Executive Officer of the Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres (2007–2013) and Manager of the Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre (2004–2007).

Portrait of Damian Griffis

Damian Griffis

Damian Griffis is a descendant of the Worimi people of the Manning Valley in NSW. He is a leading advocate for the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability. Damian has been a central figure in the establishment of both the Aboriginal Disability Network NSW and the national organisation representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities and their families – the First Peoples Disability Network.