Flat White

Gillian Triggs: the final farewell

6 June 2017

7:25 AM

6 June 2017

7:25 AM

“I can’t believe it, Tim. Only five years into the job and my tenure as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission will end so soon – too soon.”

“But Gillian, you have made such a difference, I – we – the whole Australian community is in your debt. People now know what the AHRC stands for. Your defence of free speech has always been masterful. Listening to your Hobart Oration … Bob Brown – and everyone present – was simply overcome.”

“Tim, human rights advocacy is not for the faint hearted, we must all reject slogans and superficial thinking and insist on evidence-based policy, in this terrible time of ‘post truth’ and media spin. With legislation that positively breaches human rights, the federal parliament has also proved unable to act in respect to several contemporary issues, as I made it clear to them in my speech”

“Gillian, Bob, Julian, I dare say, even the PM, knows you should have been given another term as President. To complete your work. Our work. Those media campaigns against you, so vicious, vindictive. To say you had ruined the lives of those Queensland students…”

“Yes, and they went on and on about the death of that cartoonist, what was his name now? But I stand by what we did. That cartoon was racist, we were right to act. But they vilified me, me, an international lawyer, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission.”

“Your work, the awards, the Hobart Oration, the Voltaire Award – you made a difference.”

“Indeed I did. And, when I leave this office I will continue my fight for democracy – after I’ve had a few weeks in Paris. President Macron, I’m sure, will welcome a meeting. He too overcame challenges, that dreadful Le Pen female, spouting racist rubbish. And then perhaps a quick trip to Berlin to meet Angela Merkel – I’m sure we have a great deal in common.”

“And Theresa May – after all, you’re British, well, you were. I mean, originally British.”


“Tim, I don’t believe Theresa May is sufficiently advanced in her understanding of free speech ideals. She doesn’t seem to have courage to do things like allowing unimpeded immigration as brave Mrs Merkel did. One million Syrians into Germany!”

“In Australia we do not speak the language of international obligations or human rights when discussing public issues. When the UN Rapporteurs and the Human Rights Council have raised concerns about Australia’s failure to protect the rights of vulnerable people –those in detention on Nauru and Manus Island – conditions that breach the Convention Against Torture – the response from Canberra has been: “We will not be lectured to by the UN.”

“Don’t upset yourself, Gillian, you have been so brave throughout your life. Giving up your daughter. That was a real sacrifice.”

“Yes, Victoria was, as I told that reporter from the Weekly, born with Edwards Syndrome, with a profound disability, so yes, giving her to the United Church’s respite was … really, best for all concerned. I remember saying ‘I’m really reluctant to leave her with you because I would feel terrible if she died.’ That’s what I told the reporter. And thinking about those asylum-seeker children on Manus, I realise that I simply must make our government listen.”

“They are listening, Gillian…only, only sometimes other things get in the way, like Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. But of course, you won’t stop being an advocate for things you believe in. You have plans for transitioning to the next big step?”

“Of course, Tim, as an international lawyer, I’ve been planning my transition for some time.”

“To what, Gillian? The AAT? A Senate seat? No, that’s beneath you. Wait, I know, you’ll run as an independent in Tasmania, like Andrew Wilkie?”

“Oh Tim, not even close. I’ll give you a clue. Aboriginal name, in the ACT. Last woman to live there was a Queensland academic….”

“I don’t believe, yes, I do, of course! Yarralumla beckons and you’ll answer the call.”

“When I’m installed, Tim, I’m sure I’ll be able to find an appropriate position for you on my staff. We’ll be able to continue our good work together. And I’m quite looking forward to meeting the Queen. Though it might be Queen Camilla by then. Do you know that someone once told me she thought I looked like Baroness Thatcher?”

“It’s been such a privilege working with you, Gillian.”

“Thank you Tim, your loyalty will be rewarded. You can count on that.”

Illustration: AHRC/Flickr

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