Refugee Advocate Wins Human Rights Medal
11 December 2014 at 10:48 am
A western Sydney school principal and passionate refugee advocate Dorothy Hoddinott AO has been honoured with the 2014 Australian Human Rights Medal in a field of finalists from the Not for Profit sector.
The annual Human Rights Awards were presented in Sydney overnight.
For the past 19 years, Dorothy Hoddinott has been the principal of Holroyd High where she has guided hundreds of refugee and asylum-seeking children to become model citizens, before Government policies stopped the boat arrivals.
The other finalists for the Human Rights Medal were social equality advocates – chief executive of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia John Falzon and executive director and former chief executive of the NFP organisation Social Ventures Australia Michael Traill, and Noel Tovey, who has long campaigned for the rights of indigenous Australians and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
Hoddinott has previously criticised both Labor and Liberal Governments for their refugee policies. However she did not use the medal ceremony to be controversial.
“I am a teacher. For the greater part of my career, I have taught in schools on the other side of the tracks, working with disadvantaged students, particularly students from immigrant and refugee communities," she said.
“Almost sixty per cent of our students are of recent refugee background, many with interrupted or no schooling before they come to us, and most with experience of trauma that would be unimaginable in the mainstream Australian community.
“I have learned a lot on my almost fifty year journey in teaching: that birth, social class, wealth, ethnicity and gender should not define or limit your future; that all children can learn; that all children, regardless of their background and family circumstances, deserve a sound education that respects them and provides them with the firm foundation they need for the rest of their lives as active participants in society.”
Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs told the the medal ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Arts that all the finalists had made "life-changing contributions to the well-being of a great many Australians".
The Young People's Human Rights Medal went to Daniel Haile-Michael and Maki Issa, who were the lead applicants in a Federal Court case that successfully challenged racism and racial profiling within the Victorian police force.
The Human Rights Law Award went to Darren Filter from Gilbert + Tobin, in recognition of his commitment to and support for the charity, philanthropic and Not for Profit sectors.
The Business Award was won jointly by KPMG, in recognition of its Reconciliation Action Plan, and Grace Papers for its work empowering women to address pregnancy discrimination.
Transgender Victoria won the Community Organisation Award for its dedication to achieving justice, equity and quality health and community services for transgender people, their partners, families and friends.
The Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Community Individual Award went to Damian Griffis, CEO of the First Peoples Disability Network in Australia and a leading advocate for the human rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.