Australia’s new human rights commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, has officially started in the role, saying her initial focus will be on restoring rights and freedoms related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finlay said in a statement that Australians had lived with extraordinary restrictions in order to protect health and safety in the past 18 months, and human rights would be central to a post-pandemic world.
“Human rights need to be a central part of the post-pandemic conversation, both in terms of ensuring that restricted rights and freedoms are fully restored and also reflecting on the lessons to be learnt to ensure that our rights and freedoms are protected in any future emergencies,” she said.
Finlay said her focus would also be on freedom of speech, religion, movement and association being “a key part of the national conversation”.
“I also intend to focus strongly on tackling human trafficking and modern slavery, for the simple reason that while Australia is a global leader on this front, every country can – and must – do more,” she said.
Crikey reported last week that public servants at Attorney-General Michaelia Cash’s department privately raised concerns about Lorraine Finlay, a former Liberal former candidate, being appointed as commissioner.
The department officials worried the appointment process lacked transparency.
Finlay has previously worked as a lawyer and academic specialising in human rights and public law.
She has served as the Senior Human Trafficking Specialist with the Australian Mission to ASEAN, and law lecturer at Murdoch University.