Posted 17 July 2017 8:00am
As Professor Gillian Triggs’ five year term comes to a close, the Australian Human Rights Commission is preparing itself for a new President. Professor Rosalind Croucher AM begins a seven year term as President of the Commission on 30 July. Professor Croucher leaves her current role as the President of the Australian Law Reform Commission, having been a Commissioner since 2007. She recently concluded her last enquiry as President, presenting the ALRC’s report on elder abuse in care to Parliament in mid-June.
Professor Croucher comes from a background in education and management, having been the Dean of Law at Macquarie University from 1999 to 2007, and also spending time in office at the University of Sydney, as the Deputy Chair of the Academic Board in 1999, and as the Dean of Law from 1997 to 1998. Professor Croucher holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney, along with a Doctorate of Philosophy in legal history from the University of NSW. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2015 for ‘significant service to the law as an academic, to legal reform and education, to professional development and to the arts’.
Previous Presidents of the Commission include The Honourable Catherine Branson QC, the Honourable John von Doussa AO, and Professor Alice Tay AM, all of whom served five year terms. Sir Ronald Wilson AC QC is the only other President to serve a term of more than five years, in office from 1990 to 1998, when the Commission was known as a the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
The length of a President’s term is outlined by s 37 of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986. This section dictates that members - the President and Commissioners alike - serve a term ‘not exceeding 7 years’. The exact length of the term is specified by the Governor-General in the instrument by which that member is appointed, entirely up to their discretion. The Commission’s President is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Attorney-General, on behalf of the Commonwealth government. Convention says that the Attorney-General bases their advice on the recommendation of an independent selection panel, usually comprising the outgoing President, a representative of the Australian Public Service Commissioner, and various other public servants from distinguished offices.
On announcing Professor Croucher’s appointment, Attorney-General Senator Brandis said that
‘[her] leadership and experience will bring strength to the role and make her the right person to implement and oversee the significant reforms to the AHRC … The Government looks forward to the cooperative relationship with Professor Croucher that we are sure she will foster as she undertakes this important task.’