What’s the value of a human rights approach in social policy? The case of gender equality

Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Time: 1.35 pm – 3.15 pm
Location: Tyree Room (first floor)
Chair: Myra Hamilton
Speaker(s): Louise Chappell, Libby Lyons, Beth Goldblatt, Sally Moyle

Over the last few decades, both major political parties have attempted to develop a more coherent policy agenda on women’s rights and gender equality. While some progress has been made in addressing gender inequalities, many issues - such as the gender pay gap, poverty among older women, and high levels of gender-based violence - remain entrenched.

The purpose of this session is to ask ‘what next’ for the policy agenda on gender equality, by interrogating the value of a human rights approach for building such a policy agenda in Australia. As a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Australia is obliged to promote and protect women’s equality and empowerment. But 40 years on from the adoption of CEDAW in 1979, how useful is the Convention – and indeed other international human rights instruments – in framing and designing effective social policy instruments in the area of women’s rights and gender equality? How are the human rights principles of harm, accountability and redress mobilised (or not) in contemporary social policy and practice in this area?

Drawing on the perspectives of policy agenda-setters in the academic, non-government, and government sectors, this session explores the ways in which a human rights approach is being mobilised, leveraged, neglected or discarded across different areas of policy and different sectors with respect to women’s rights and gender equality. It will candidly examine both the benefits and the challenges of using a human rights approach, before drawing shared lessons for the future policy agenda in Australia.


Professor Louise Chappell, Director, Australian Human Rights Institute, UNSW Sydney
Libby Lyons, Director, Workplace Gender Equality Agency
Associate Professor Beth Goldblatt, Law Faculty, UTS
Sally Moyle, Honorary Associate Professor, ANU, formerly CEO, Care Australia