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Gillian Triggs: Speaking Up

Listen to 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.

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