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Maurice Blackburn principal named race discrimination commissioner

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has named a principal from national law firm Maurice Blackburn as Australia’s new race discrimination commissioner, taking over from incumbent Chin Tan.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 05 February 2024 Politics
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Earlier today (Monday, 5 February), A-G Dreyfus announced the appointment of Giridharan Sivaraman as the new race discrimination commissioner. He will commence in the role on 4 March, filling the vacancy resulting from the conclusion of the term of the current commissioner, Chin Tan.

Mr Sivaraman is an employment and industrial law principal at Maurice Blackburn, having served with the firm for more than two decades. He is the head of the firm’s Queensland employment law team, based in Brisbane.

He is also the chair of the board of Multicultural Australia and a member of the Multicultural Queensland Advisory Council.


Speaking about the appointment, A-G Dreyfus said: “I congratulate Mr Sivaraman on his appointment and thank him for taking on this important role. His comprehensive understanding and demonstrated passion in the race discrimination and human rights space will be a great asset to the Australian Human Rights Commission.”

“I thank Mr Tan for his contribution during his term, and Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, president of the AHRC, for acting in the role throughout the merit-based selection process.”

The AHRC welcomed the appointment, with Emeritus Professor Croucher saying: “We are very excited by this appointment.”

“For decades, the fight for systemic equality and speaking truth to power have been at the heart of Mr Sivaraman’s work. His distinguished legal career has seen him lead significant cases in workplace and discrimination law, which, coupled with his public advocacy for the rights for racially marginalised communities, has led to tangible results that have improved and empowered people’s lives.”

“Mr Sivaraman is a widely respected champion of racial equity. His lived experience, passion for diversity and inclusion, and deep understanding of human rights and Australian discrimination law mean he will be a powerful asset for the commission during what is very much a delicate time in the country.”

There has been a “marked increase” in reports of racism and hate speech in recent months, Emeritus Professor Croucher continued, noting it is therefore vital to amplify efforts to empower communities to address racism at its root causes and continue the public campaign to take action to combat racism.

“This is difficult but critical work to do, and commissioner Sivaraman will lead the way in this area, as we help make Australia a more respectful and equitable place for all people, regardless of their background,” she submitted.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers also congratulated Mr Sivaraman on his appointment, calling him a “fierce advocate for equality and workers’ rights”.

The firm’s chief executive, Jacob Varghese, said Mr Sivaraman would make a valuable contribution as the next race discrimination commissioner.

“Giri has a tremendous record as a lawyer representing hundreds of employees every year and is keenly aware that vulnerable employees are often exploited by employers. He has always been a fierce advocate for workers in the hospitality and convenience store industries, sectors which traditionally include workers from minority backgrounds,” he detailed.

“He will be a fine race discrimination commissioner.”

And the Asian Australian Lawyers Association's national vice president, Belinda Wong, said that the appointment of Mr Sivaraman "gives us faith that Australians can expect to be robustly and fearlessly defended against race discrimination".

“His tireless advocacy for systemic equality and human rights, coupled with his extensive legal expertise, will undoubtedly make a profound impact in fostering a more inclusive and equitable Australia," said Ms Wong, who is also a corporate counsel at Laing O'Rourke.

“Here's to a future of greater understanding, tolerance, and harmony in Australian society."

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