Page 4427 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005

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Professor Hilary Charlesworth

MR GENTLEMAN: My question is directed to the Chief Minister. Is the Chief Minister aware that the distinguished human rights lawyer, Professor Hilary Charlesworth of the Australian National University, was last week jointly awarded the American Society of International Law’s 2006 Goler T Butcher Medal? What is the significance of this prestigious award?

MR STANHOPE: I am very pleased to respond to the question and, in doing so, to acknowledge the enormous standing and stature of Professor Hilary Charlesworth from the Australian National University in world academia and in societies, such as the American Society of International Law, that acknowledge the people from around the world who make a significant contribution to academia, to scholarship and, in this particular instance, to human rights.

Professor Charlesworth, as members would be aware, headed the Bill of Rights Consultative Committee, which this government appointed to advise the government on whether to proceed to put into legislation for the ACT, through a human rights act, aspects of our fundamental human rights.

The significance of this award, the Goler T Butcher Medal, which is one of the most significant awards—if not the most significant award—that a practitioner in international law or human rights might aspire to or be awarded, is many faceted. In the first instance, it is an enormous honour for Professor Hilary Charlesworth personally.

In the context of this government—the significance for the territory—it is a matter of honour and some comfort that it was Professor Charlesworth who advised this government on the path that we followed in legislating a human rights act for the Australian Capital Territory. I am certainly conscious—we would all be conscious—of the significant and important role that Professor Charlesworth had in guiding the nature or the structure of the legislation ultimately adopted by the Assembly in legislating a human rights act here in the territory.

I notice that that has been specifically acknowledged in the announcement of the award and in a discussion of Professor Charlesworth’s commitment to human rights and international law. The CV relating to her and in relation to the award acknowledges that she was chair of that consultative committee and that it was her report and the report of the others that set the blueprint for Australia’s first bill of rights.

Specifically—I will mention it and note it now—the award was very much a response to a major report prepared jointly by Professor Charlesworth and Professor Christine Chinkin entitled The Boundaries of International Law: a feminist analysis. This report took a critical look at how and why the development of international law has often failed to address the needs of women. That book cites such root causes as the absence of women in positions of power at both state and international levels, and advocates that the boundaries of international law be redrawn to correct those failures of leadership and to create more equitable status for and treatment of women in society. It was for that particular work that professors Chinkin and Charlesworth were specifically awarded the Goler T Butcher Medal for 2006.

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