Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group

Promoting the understanding of, and respect for human rights

The Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Story


21 Sept 2005 While visiting Mansfield, Helen Howells learned of the Victorian Government’s Human Rights Consultation Committee. She obtained a copy of its Discussion Paper and began recruiting like-minded friends from her local Anglican Church to study it. Initially it was a group of four women sitting round a card table during one of the parish's bi-monthly Theological Conversations.
5 Nov 2005 Ten people sat down to study the Discussion Paper.
12 Nov 2005 The group agreed on the text for a submission to the Consultation Committee.
19 Jan 2006 The group held its first meeting with Gail Price, Community Development Officer of the Mornington Peninsula Shire, at the Rosebud Shire Offices and decided to conduct a Public Forum to provide information for citizens about the Government’s proposed Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities to give opportunity for citizens to express their opinions about it to allow our parliamentarians both state and federal to sample public opinion.
23 Jan 2006 The group was represented at the Stakeholders Forum organised by the Attorney General’s Department for those who had made submissions. Over the next three months the group met every two to three weeks to organise the Forum.
3 May 2006

Public forum

Patrons: Professor Judith Brett, The Hon John Button, The Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser, AC, CH, Mr Simon McKeon, Ms Hannie Rayson, Ms Fiona Smith, Cr Brian Stahl, OAM, JP

Speakers: Professor Haddon Story, QC followed by Rosy Buchanan,MLA and Malcolm Fraser. Also, Dr Michael Kennedy and Helen Howells.

Chair: Terry Laidler

Attendance: 263 people

24 Jul 2006 The group decided to continue its human rights activities, adopted the name 'Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group' and decided to work for a national Charter of Human Rights.
22 Sep 2006 John Howells attended 'Honour Bound' and was inspired to propose a Symposium on the evil of torture.
25 Sep 2006 The Group accepted the proposal and made it the first project for 2007.
6 Nov 2006

Seminar with Spencer Zifcak, author of the bill for a charter of human rights, on the “Human Rights Act for Australia” Campaign

8 Dec 2006 A Vigil for Human Rights. Organised some 20 churches across the state to hold simultaneous vigils from 6.00pm to 9.00pm for people indefinitely detained like Mohammed Sagar and David Hicks.
11 Dec 2006 Workshop: A Human Rights Audit of the Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Access and Equity Policy. Subsequently a report was submitted to the Mayor and Council stating that the Policy not only fulfilled the requirements of the new Act but went beyond it.
18 Dec 2006 Deputation to Greg Hunt MP, Federal Member for Flinders, to protest against the indefinite detention without trial of David Hicks at Guantanamo Bay. Mr Hunt undertook to present our submission to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
10 Jan 2007 The Planning Group for the torture project (David Ball, Elspeth Fleming, John Howells) held its first meeting. Thereafter it met every two to three weeks. It recruited five local people to present short papers on torture, giving each a specific topic to investigate. It invited ethicist and author Alan Nichols to give a keynote address. It invited a wide range of people from the peninsula to participate in the symposium.
5 May 2007


10.00 - 3.30 at Rosebud Shire Offices. 40 accepted and 38 attended.

Discussion led to the development of an Agreed Statement called 'Five Propositions concerning Torture'. It was recommended that the papers and the Agreed Statement be published.

22 Jul 2007 A small book, Confronting a Scandal : A Symposium on Torture, launched at Antipodes Bookshop Sorrento by Malcolm Fraser who also wrote a foreword for the book. The book retails at $10.
30 Jul 2007 Wrote to Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, expressing concern at the treatment of the Barwon 13 and asking if there had been breaches of Victoria's new Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.
7 Aug 2007

Film screening

Preview screening of A Nun's New Habit by Robyn Hughan a member of the Group. It features the story of Sr Carmel who worked with asylum seekers at Baxter Detention Centre.

1 Sep 2007 Newsletter. Launched the first issue of an occasional email newsletter called 'Connect'. Subsequent issues have been sent on 1 Oct (this included the text of the reply from Rob Hulls' office) and 1 Jan 2008 (this included an article on Australian Government policies concerning Indigenous people during the last 100 years).
22 Oct 2007 Met with Glenys Watts, the Mornington Peninsula Shire's Aboriginal Support and Development Team Leader.
26 Oct 2007

Studied Whatever Happened to Reconciliation? by Patrick Dodson.

31 Jan 2008

Resolved to conduct a public forum on the Federal Intervention in the Northern Territory.

25 Feb 2008 Seminar with Dr Murray and Marjorie Seiffert of Nungalinya College Darwin on Cross-Cultural Communication.
26 May 2008 Seminar with Dr Inez Dussuyer, Principal Investigation Officer Ombudsman Victoria, on Victoria's Correctional Services and the Role of the Ombudsman.
24 Jun 2008

Public forum

Featuring Commissioner Tom Calma on Reforming Federal Indigenous Affairs Policies.

Attendance about 250.

1 Jul 2008 Made a submission to the Optional Protocol National Interest Analysis being conducted by the Attorney-General's Department concerning the Convention against Torture. Used our book, Confronting a Scandal, to support the signing by Australia of the Optional Protocol.
31 Jul 2008

Film screening

Screening of Robyn Hughan's documentary, A Nun's New Habit at the Sorrento Cinema. The film looks at the detention of asylum seekers in Baxter Detention Centre through the eyes of Sr Carmel. Attendance 73.

25 Aug 2008 Made a submission to the Federal Government's White Paper process on Defence. It was signed by 30 members and supporters.
22 Sep 2008 Adopted a Constitution and held our first Annual General Meeting according to its rules. The Constitution sets out the purposes, office-bearers, committee of management and operating procedures of the Group.
24 Nov 2008 Seminar with human rights lawyer Ben Schokman on "The International Human Rights System". Ben is D A Phillips Fox Lawyer with the Human Rights Law Resource Centre
10 Dec 2008

Human rights day

Screening of Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives: The Environmental Footprint of War an award-nominated documentary by Alice and Lincoln Day, to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

25 Feb 2009 Meeting with Alice and Lincoln Day to hear about the making of their film, followed by its screening and responses by Robin Pryor and Cr Reade Smith
19 May 2009

Human rights roundtable

Held in Mornington for the National Human Rights Consultation. It was led by Fr Frank Brennan, chair of the National Consultation, and had 77 participants.

8 Jun 2009 Made a submission to the National Human Rights Consultation urging the adoption of a National Charter of Human Rights. It was signed by 31 members and supporters
6 Jul 2009 Wrote to the Minister for Defence acknowledging receipt of the Consultation Report and of the new White Paper on Defence. We expressed concern at the failure of the Report to mention submissions expressing opinions contrary to the views adopted in the White Paper, and we argued that the White Paper committed Australia to a dangerous arms race
17 Aug 2009 Received a letter on behalf of the Minister for Defence stating that maintaining a credible defence capacity is a crucial contributor to our security.
31 Aug 2009 Held second Annual General Meeting of our Group
28 Oct 2009 Wrote to Prime Minister Rudd urging him to restore the Racial Discrimination Act suspended for the Northern Territory Emergency Response
30 Oct 2009 Wrote to all members of federal cabinet and all Victorian senators and members of parliament urging support for the recommendations of the Brennan Report
23 Nov 2009 Seminar with human rights lawyer, Emily Howie, on The Report of the National Human Rights Consultation. Emily is a senior lawyer with the Human Rights Law Resource Centre
11 Mar 2010 Our petition requesting introduction of a bill for a Human Rights Act was tabled in House of Representatives. (117 signatures)
7 Jun 2010 Met with our local member, the Hon Greg Hunt MP to hear his Philosophy of Human Rights.
25 Jun 2010 Agreed to endorse the Report, Freedom Respect Equality Dignity: Action, the submission of a group of non-government organisations to the United Nation's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
6 Sep 2010 Held third Annual General Meeting
4 Oct 2010

(1) Wrote to various Federal politician about the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010 and to two State politicians about the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

(2) Operation Concern: Wrote to 100 local organisations to focus attention of the serious nature of Homelessness on the Mornington Peninsula. Follow-up telephone calls were made


12 Oct 2010 Visit to Old Treasury Building in Melbourne in association with the Shire's Aboriginal Support and Development Team to see the Pepper Room and to hear from Rita Watkins and Glenys Watts descendants of Lucy and Percy Pepper
19 Oct 2010 Made submission to Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee supporting the passage of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Bill 2010
7 Mar 2011 Heard a report from member Robyn Hughan on the progress of her documentary "A Nun's New Habit" and her recent visits to Malaysia and Iran in connection with it.
18 Mar 2011 Our revised and up-graded website <> was re-launched.
4 Apr 2011

(1) Petition: Unanimously approved a Petition to the House of Representatives seeking a change to the present detention system for asylum seekers and recommending an increase in the number of refugees accepted annually on humanitarian grounds, and opened the Petition for signatures.

(2) Visit: Had a visit from Glenys Watts the Shire's Aboriginal Support and Development Team Leader who spoke about the work of her team, the Gathering Place being developed in the Hastings area, and the successful land rights recently achieved in Gippsland.

9 Jun 2011

Public forum

  "Protecting Human Rights in Australia" between the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP and the Hon Greg Hunt MP, chaired by Victoria's Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Helen Szoke. and questioned by Emily Howie, director Advocacy and Strategic Litigation of the Human Rights Law Centre, and Dr Russell Solomon, a director of Amnesty International Australia and senior lecturer at RMIT University and by the audience. Attendance between 150 and 200 in the Peninsula Community Theatre.

10 Jun 2011 Sent a Submission, signed by 22 members, to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee of the Victorian parliament inquiring into the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.
4 Jul 2011

(1) Sent our Petition on Asylum Seekers with 353 signatures to our local member Greg Hunt MP for submission to the House of Representatives and received a message from him that it had been done.

(2) Chair, Deputy Chair and Newsletter Editor advised of their intentions to step down from their current roles and encouraged nominations from members for these positions.

1 Aug 2011 Met with Cr Tim Rodgers, chair Triple A Housing Committee and Peter Sibly, Housing and Social Justice Officer, of the Mornington Peninsula Shire to hear of developments in the Shire's policy and work for the homeless. The session was introduced by a presentation from secretary Jenni Colwill on Housing as a Human Right.
3 Oct 2011 Address by Ed O’Donohue, Member of the Legislative Council for the Eastern Victoria Region and chair of the State Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, the body charged with the review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.
7 Nov 2011

(1) Address by Dr Carol Morse, on Community Visitors – Supporting the Rights of People with Disabilities. Dr Morse has enjoyed over 30 years in research, teaching and clinical practice as a Health Psychologist, and now works for the Office of the Public Advocate as a Community Visitor in the Mental Health Stream and as an Independent Third Person who supports people with a disability apprehended by the police. She serves on the Mental Health Board of OPA and as the Chair of the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Department of Health.

(2) Rosemarie Draper reported on her 6-month experience as a Child Protection Worker/locum in the Northern Territory.

(3) Wrote a letter of introduction to the newly formed Northern Territory human rights group attached to Charles Darwin University

5 Dec 2011 Wrote to the Premier Ted Baillieu applauding the recommendation of the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee to retain our Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities but deploring its recommendtions to remove the power of the judiciary to make a declaration of inconsistent interpretation and to weaken the obligation on public authorities to act consistently with human rights, and not to recommend the inclusion of social, economic and cultural rights
6 Feb 2012

Film screening

Screened the film The Trial – a human rights film about freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment from Intrepid Media, directed by Joan Robinson. The film tells the story of the twelve Muslim men who were tried for terrorism offences in Australia in February 2008. Their trial ran for nine months, heard 482 secretly taped conversations and presented 66,000 pages of evidence.

5 Mar 2012

(1) Presentation by Dr Nouria Salehi, OAM, Victorian Senior Australian of the Year 2012. Dr Salehi is a highly respected nuclear physicist and biophysicist whose medical research includes the use of radioactive isotopes to detect and treat various forms of cancer. She was born in Afghanistan, and completed her post-graduate studies and worked in France before moving to Australia in 1981. She has established an organisation to support projects giving Afghanis essential skills and opportunities, including vocational training and literacy programs for women and young people in Kabul and nearby villages as well as accredited formal training programs for science teachers.

(2) Wrote to Nicola Roxon, Attorney General, welcoming Australia’s ratification of the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

25 Mar 2012

Welcome to Australia BBQ.

The Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group, with support from the New Hope Foundation and the Mornington Peninsula Shire, hosted a BBQ at the Vern Wright Reserve, West Rosebud, as part of the Rosebud West Neighbour Day festivities, to welcome new arrivals and other more established asylum seekers, migrants and refugees who have come to Australia.

2 Apr 2012 Presentation by Kristen Walker about her role as the senior of the four Junior Counsel in the 'Malaysian Solution' litigation involving the potential deportation of a boatload of Afghan and Sri Lankan asylum seekers, including six unaccompanied children, from Christmas Island. Kristen Walker is a barrister and a Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne Law School.
4 June 2012 Presentation by Kerin Leonard on Outcomes of the First Four-Year Charter Review and Beyond. Kerin is the Manager of the Legal Unit at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, and coordinated the Commission’s submission to the four-year review of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities
2 July 2012

Film screening

Screened a 25-minute overview of the forthcoming documentary Journey to Nowhere by Robyn Hughan. The overview introduces the key characters and environments of the proposed film, and is about a group of Hazara women and their families who have spent most of their life seeking refuge in other countries.

7 Aug 2012

Public forum

In conjunction with the Southern Peninsula U3A, presented a forum on Australia’s Asylum Seeker Dilemma at the Dromana Old Shire Offices, Dromana. Attended by over 50 people, the forum commenced with a viewing of the overview of Robyn Hughan’s film, Journey to Nowhere, followed by speakers the Member for Flinders, Greg Hunt, MP, and Rebecca Eckard, Research Coordinator for the Refugee Council of Australia. Helen Howells, Founding President of the Mornington Peninsula Human Rights Group, was the moderator.