The Australian Human Rights Commission (previously the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) is a statutory body funded by, but operating independently of, the Australian Government.
The Commission falls under the portfolio of the Attorney-General of Australia. The Commission works within the legal framework of Australian law. The most relevant legislation in the context of this post is the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, the most recent version of which can be accessed here (as at August 2016).
As at 30 June 2022 the gender ratio for ongoing full-time staff was 74% female and 26% male. For all staff however the ratio of men to women is 20% and 80% respectively (Annual report 2021-2022, p124).
The Commission has a number of specialist commissioners, with gender issues being primarily addressed by a ‘Sex Discrimination Commissioner’. The most recent Commissioner was Kate Jenkins who undertook her duties from April 2016 to April 2023. “She ends her term with the sincere thanks of the Albanese Labor Government for improving the lives of Australian women.” Kate is to be replaced by Dr Anna Cody, whose appointment will commence on 4 September 2023.
“Human rights recognise the inherent value of each person, regardless of background, where we live, what we look like, what we think or what we believe.
They are based on principles of dignity, equality and mutual respect, which are shared across cultures, religions and philosophies. They are about being treated fairly, treating others fairly and having the ability to make genuine choices in our daily lives.
Respect for human rights is the cornerstone of strong communities in which everyone can make a contribution and feel included.”
See also ‘Equal rights of men and women‘
A review of their literature, however, suggests that the AHRC is infinitely more concerned about the welfare and rights of those humans that are female, than they are about the other half of the population.
A word search on “men” within the AHRC web site turned up 912 results, which was promising. Or at least it was until I looked at the first few results. Two of the top three results were papers about domestic violence and harassment, in which men were portrayed (only) as the aggressors and women (only) as the victims:
The first paper ‘Men breaking the silence’, by Elizabeth Broderick, began as follows:
“Gender-based violence is a form of discrimination that seriously inhibits women’s ability to enjoy rights and freedoms on a basis of equality with men. Attitudes by which women are regarded as subordinate to men or as having negative stereotyped roles perpetuate widespread practices involving violence or coercion, such as domestic and family violence and abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment. In Australia, too many women live in fear of violence every day.”
In my blog post entitled Domestic violence is not a gendered issue – Why the pervasive sexist bias against men? I provide many references supporting the assertion that there are as many women guilty of intimate partner violence as there are men, or close to it. But Ms Broderick’s paper gives no hint of there being substantial numbers of male victims and female perpetrators of domestic violence … why?
What useful purpose, with regards to the goal of protecting human rights, is served by demonising men and giving violent women a free pass?
The second paper in the AHRC web site, ‘Sexual harassment. Know where the line is‘, begins thus:
“Sexual harassment is prevalent in Australian workplaces. One in four women have experienced harassment at work, and mens harassment of other men is also on the rise. Nearly one in five complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) relate to sexual harassment.”
Even given the often compromised standards of feminism, that’s a fairly disingenuous opening gambit. Consider:
“One in four women have experienced harassment at work”
How many of these complaints related to the harassment of women by men? How many of these complaints were upheld?
“and mens harassment of other men is also on the rise”
That seems to imply that only men harass men, and that is simply untrue. And what about womens harassment of women, is that also on the rise? One would expect that, in the case of a professional agency like this, adequate context would be provided to evaluate statements like this.
“Nearly one in five complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) relate to sexual harassment.”
And again, how many of these complaints concerned the harassment of women by men, and how many fell into the other categories? i.e. men harassing men, women harassing women, and women harassing men.
I then looked at other papers either written by Elizabeth Broderick, or in which she was quoted, to see the extent to which her views favoured one gender over another. What I found was of considerable concern.
In my blog post entitled Harassment and discrimination in the workplace: Surprise, surprise, it goes both ways I mentioned an article co-authored by Ms Broderick. That article is called Know where the line is: Melissa Hoyer and Elizabeth Broderick address sexual harassment. I would recommend that you read the article and especially the readers comments that follow – most of which expressed outrage at the extent of feminist bias on display.
In another article entitled ‘Gender on Agenda‘ (Courier Mail, 4 June 2014), Ms Broderick “expressed dismay” at the small number of women on company boards and suggested the imposition of gender quotas to be an appropriate response. As I have noted here, here and here, the justification for imposing gender quotas is dubious.
Ms Broderick has on many occasions expressed concern at the treatment of sexual harassment of women in the workplace. As far as I am aware, however, she has consistently failed to address the extent to which men are also affected by harassment and discrimination at work.
Further browsing in the AHRC web site and google searching on ‘Elizabeth Broderick’ turned up many further articles and speeches in a similar vein. This recent speech entitled ‘Towards a Gender Equal Australia‘ (18 November 2014) only makes mention of men due to their potential utility in achieving further gains for women. Men apparently have no issues of their own to deal with or, alternatively, Ms Broderick considers any such needs to be inconsequential.
Would someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I could not find a single instance where Ms Broderick expressed concern for the welfare of men, for example as victims of harassment, sexual assault, or domestic violence. Instead men were consistently cited as perpetrators of inappropriate behaviour (or at least complicit in such behaviour) and/or as the group to be held responsible for making changes or implementing initiatives to address problems experienced by women.
As far as I am aware Ms. Broderick has offered no corresponding statements in relation to the need for women to modify their own behaviour, or concerning women’s responsibility towards addressing problems experienced by men.
Further, I have seen very little acknowledgement being given to the contributions made by men in achieving progress on issues of inequality or disadvantage affecting women. The one exception was her own Male Champions of Change project, a program fitting safely within the confines of feminist dogma. Again, if this is incorrect then I would certainly appreciate a reader directing me towards any such statements of support.
In Ms Broderick’s eyes, it would seem that the life of men is all blue skies. Yet when it comes to womens dealings with men, well, ‘all rights and no fault/responsibility’ seems to pretty much sum things up.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick concedes that the Australian Human Rights Commission has no initiatives targeting men. “We have very limited resources, so our work is necessarily directed at identifying the greatest areas of gender inequality,” Broderick says. “So, while we actively engage with men and some of the men’s groups, we have not directly worked on men’s rights issues.” (Source)
One facet of the degree of bias displayed by Ms Broderick is the inaccuracy evident in some of the statements attributed to her. For example, in this 2014 interview with Jackie Frank she stated:
“About 1.2 million women [in Australia] currently live in an intimate relationship characterised by physical violence”
In actual fact the most recent nationally representative survey found that 114,600 Australian women report having experienced violence from a current or previous partner during the preceding twelve months (Source). A tenfold exaggeration? Really?
The ‘Misinformation’ page within the website of the ‘One in Three’ organisation also attributes the following errors to Ms. Broderick:
“One in three women will live in an intimate relationship characterised by violence over her lifetime”. Correction by ‘One in Three’: “the Personal Safety Survey 2005 found that 160,100 women have experienced violence from a current partner since the age of 15. This is 2.08% of Australian women. This equates to one in forty eight women.”
“Almost 90% of the victims of domestic violence are female”. Correction by ‘One in Three’: “Up to two-thirds of domestic violence victims are female, and at least one third are male.”
From ‘Tackling sexual harassment’ a resource for secondary school students produced by the AHRC:
“Girls can sexually harass boys. Although this doesn’t happen as often as boys harassing girls.” (p9) Based on what data source? How/why is this even relevant to note in this document?
“Complaints received by the Commission show that 95% of people who are harassed are female.” No, what this actually says is that 95% of people who lodged complaints were female – not the same thing.
Such a degree of unashamed bias is completely unacceptable. This is the ‘Human Rights Commission’ we are talking about, not a private lobby group or women’s studies centre. Australian men, and the women who care about their welfare, deserve an advocate who is willing and able to competently and energetically champion the interests of both women/girls and men/boys. The Australian community as a whole deserves better.
Given Ms Broderick’s failure to maintain even a modicum of impartiality, one hopes that the termination of her contract in September 2015 will see the appointment of someone better qualified to fulfil the responsibilities of this important role.
‘Gender equality‘ does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment (Source). Is the approach taken by the AHRC in accord with that definition? Or alternatively, is it more consistent with this one?
Scroll through the Commissioner’s Twitter stream and look for tweets in which she champions the interests of men and boys … are there any? Even one?
This raises the issue of whether members of the public are able to lodge a complaint regarding discrimination with the Commission, against the Commission itself. If any readers can answer that then please leave a comment below. An alternative course of action might be via the federal Attorney-General’s Department.
Developments at the AHRC subsequent to the departure of Ms Broderick, and which are related to gender issues, are discussed in this blog post. For those of you wondering about the next step in Ms. Broderick’s career, read this article by Miranda Devine.
Readers might find the references listed below to be of interest … Where applicable I would suggest that it’s worthwhile to also review readers comments appended to each source
Elizabeth Broderick nets $10k per speaking gig (4 February 2016)
Government seeks advice on new sex discrimination commissioner (11 December 2015)
Finalists for the 2015 Human Rights Community Award announced (9 November 2015) See how many of the finalists work to advance/protect the rights of men/boys. Apparently none!? The winner, by the way, was Ludo McFerran
Who will replace Elizabeth Broderick as Sex Discrimination Commissioner? by Jenna Price (6 November 2015) “We must all call on the government to do the right thing and appoint the best woman to the job”
Men are not regarded as ‘Human’ thanks to Feminist legislation in Australia (17 September 2015)
Ms. Broderick’s swansong … true to type right to the end … no support for men/boys, just criticism (2 September 2015) More of the same here and here. I predict that her next gig will be a well-remunerated slot within the Domestic Violence Industry, helping to spend Malcolm Turnbull’s recent generous hand-out.
Profile of the work of Elizabeth Broderick over the past eight years, by Anne Summers (May 2015) Word search on ‘women’ = 61 hits Word search on ‘men’ = 6 hits (two of which were negative, one neutral and four about the ‘Champions of Change’ program)
To attain gender equality, we need to focus on men (13 May 2015) But this “focus on men”, is wholly limited to their potential utility to help women. Features a reader’s comment by J.D.Troughton:
“I still see a total focus on women here. We need to also incorporate respect and protection for men, and elevating them in instances of their being discriminated against. It’s a judgement call, a subjective assessment, but women look to have it better than men, to me. A feminist will say the opposite. We can’t honour one over the other on sexist grounds (eg. gynocentrism, our culture’s inherent tendency to give more weight to female suffering of the same burdens, etc.), so we need to hear both out and help both sexes. And not just make jokes about penis size, or accuse someone of bitterness and personal issues when they say that dominant gender discussion is very skewed and prejudiced. I mean, you can do that, but you just add to my case. And look like a heartless curmudgeon. And perpetuate the pain that ends up hurting the women you hold solely so dear.”
‘Let’s talk: The shocking new tricks that men use to control wives’ (31 March 2015) Ms. Broderick is interviewed by the Australian Womens Weekly magazine
Gary Johns and Judith Sloane won’t limit Broderick’s plans (11 August 2014)
Calls to change laws to fix women’s superannuation (13 November 2014) Not content to ignore men’s welfare and overstate the culpability of men for social issues like domestic violence, the Discrimination Commissioner now seeks to grant exceptions to discrimination laws to favour women at a time when traditional gender roles (with regards to parenting for example) are disappearing:
“Rice Warner got an exemption from Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick to contribute an extra two per cent of salary in superannuation contributions for their female employees over and above what they contribute for their male employees.”
Elizabeth Broderick on men’s violence towards women (3 December 2014) More of the same one-eyed assessment of the nature of domestic violence. And women never smash their partners phones? And as is so typically the case, my response to this blog post was not published
Bravehearts: The women bruised and battered in the name of ‘love’ (28 December 2014) Here Ms Broderick provides debunked statistics in her quest to demonise men and misrepresent the nature of domestic violence.
On 8 December 2014 Ms Broderick tweeted about the alarming suicide rate for “young people” but no mention of the situation with men. I imagine it slipped her mind. And isn’t it interesting how gender is specified when doing so supports the feminist narrative, but not when it doesn’t?
Superiority in the name of equality (29 June 2013)
Sex discrimination commissioner ignores men and boys (3 May 2012)
The Commissioner for discrimination against men (21 July 2012) It was suggested that the AHRC provide some information in their web site to mark International Men’s Day (as they do every year for International Women’s Day). The response was this was not possible due to resourcing constraints. Four years later there is still no mention of International Men’s Day within the AHRC web site. It is a disgrace for the AHRC to suggest that it is committed to “true gender equality”.
It’s hard to be a trailblazing woman (11 August 2012)
Elizabeth Broderick Sex Discrimination Commissioner, 50 (4 February 2012) Again, men as perpetrators and enablers of the victimisation of women, and otherwise only notable for their potential utility in assisting in the continued advancement of women
Discrimination is fine, says Commissioner Two-Legs-Good, by Andrew Bolt (23 June 2010)
“We need to put in place what some might call affirmative action strategies, where we treat men and women differently for the purpose of achieving better gender balance at a senior level.”
Elsewhere within this blog readers might find the following post to be of interest: