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New Race Discrimination Commissioner appointed

13 February 20240 comments

Australia’s new Race Discrimination Commissioner is an Indian-origin employment lawyer with who is also chair of the Queensland Multicultural Advisory Council.

Giridharan Sivaraman, who is head of law firm Maurice Blackburn’s employment law team, begins his five-year tenure with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on March 4.

AHRC President Rosalind Croucher welcomed Mr Sivaraman’s appointment and described his legal career as “distinguished” while commending his public advocacy for marginalised groups in the community.

“For decades, the fight for systemic equality and speaking truth to power have been at the heart of Mr Sivaraman’s work,” Ms Croucher said.

“This has included significant cases in workplace and discrimination law, which have led to tangible results that have improved and empowered people’s lives,” she said.

Among these cases are significant state and national race discrimination suits.

Mr Sivaraman led the pro-bono compensation scheme for underpaid 7-Eleven workers, many of whom came from migrant backgrounds.

He has also represented refugees in pro-bono matters and appeared before the Legal Affairs and Safety Committee in 2021 for an inquiry into serious racial vilification and hate crimes.

In other work with Multicultural Australia, Mr Sivaraman has supported new arrivals in Queensland. His advocacy efforts have also extended to the protection and promotion of the rights of First Nations peoples.

“Mr Sivaraman is a widely respected champion of racial equity,” Ms Croucher said.

“His lived experience, passion for diversity and inclusion, and deep understanding of human rights and Australian discrimination law mean he will be a powerful asset for the commission during what is very much a delicate time in the country.”

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said that in his new role, Sivaraman would be responsible for combatting all forms of racial discrimination and promoting understanding, tolerance and harmony across all sectors of Australian society.

“I congratulate Mr Sivaraman on his appointment and thank him for taking on this important role. His comprehensive understanding and demonstrated passion in the race discrimination and human rights space will be a great asset to the Australian Human Rights Commission,” Mr Dreyfus said.

Mr Sivaraman’s appointment fills a vacancy created after the conclusion of Victorian Chin Tan’s term as commissioner.

“I thank Mr Tan for his contribution during his term, and Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM for acting in the role throughout the merit-based selection process,” Mr Dreyfus said.