The Wheeler Centre
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Gillian Triggs: Speaking Up
In conversation with Virginia Trioli, former Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs discusses her life, career and convictions – as well as her family, her experiences travelling to Manus, Nauru and Christmas Island, her relationship with government during her term … and why, moving forward, feminism may demand more 'vulgarity'.
Gillian Triggs’s career has taken some surprising turns. She’s been a professional ballerina, a practising lawyer and an academic specialising in international public law. She’s even done a stint at the Dallas Police Department in Texas.
But Triggs became a household name as president of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Her tenure, from 2012 to 2017, was unexpectedly controversial. The commission’s inquiry into children in immigration detention made Triggs some powerful enemies in the federal government. Later, she became a kind of human flashpoint for debates about racial vilification and free speech, following the high-profile Bill Leak cartoon case.
Some have accused Triggs and the commission of overreach; for others, Triggs was a human rights champion withstanding unprecedented government pressure. Either way, there’s no denying her commitment to the human rights framework, and her belief that Australia needs its own Bill of Rights.
Gillian Triggs is former President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the new Chair of Justice Connect, a non-profit dedicated to connecting people locked out of the justice system with free legal help. She is also Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Vice President of the Asian Development Bank Tribunal.
Gillian has combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice and has advised the Australian and other governments and international organisations on international legal and trade disputes. After her tenure with the HRC ended, Gillian joined Justice Connect as Chair to pursue her commitment to ensuring that all people have a fair chance to access justice, including people experiencing homelessness, elder abuse, family violence and financial exploitation. Post-HRC, Gillian is focused on helping lawyers ‘get out of the office’ and meet people who need legal help where they live. She is also the author of many books and papers on international law, including International Law, Contemporary Principles and Practices.
Two-time Walkley Award winner, Virginia Trioli has an established reputation as a radio host, television presenter, news reporter, features writer and columnist. She currently anchors ABC News Breakfast on ABC 1 and ABC News 24.