Waterside Workers Federation Hall, Port Adelaide
July 29, 2017

In July 2012, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed Professor Gillian Triggs, the Head of the Law School at Sydney University, as Chair of the Australian Human Rights Commission. Over her five-year term, Professor Triggs became one of the most divisive and controversial figures in the Australian political discourse. Her retirement this week was met with relief by the current Coalition government with which she was often in vigorous conflict. The press was divided in its estimation. Whilst News Limited papers denigrated “Triggs’s Inglorious Legacy” ( The Australian,July 26, 2017, p.13), political journalist and author David Marr declared her “a hero” ( The Drum,ABC TV, July 26, 2017).

In 2014, under Professor Triggs, the AHRC released a report entitled “The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention”. Its purpose had been “to investigate the ways in which life in immigration detention affects the health, well-being and development of children”. Reading that report, the composer Cat Hope (then based in Perth before moving to Melbourne in January this year to become the new Head of the Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music at Monash University) felt helpless “watching and reading from...