Social media is a powerful tool to spread the human rights message, two panelists said at a reception organised by Baha’is in Sydney to mark Human Rights Day 2015.
Following a service at the Baha’i Temple in Ingleside on 6 December, anti-racism activist Anna Nelson and Amnesty International member Fiona Bachmann addressed a well-attended reception. Australian Baha’i Community representative Venus Khalessi chaired the discussion.
Project and research officer for the national anti-racism strategy at the Australian Human Rights Commission, Ms Nelson said the campaign was trying to empower everybody regardless of their racial background to take action against racism.
“Primarily the campaign works through working directly with organisations,” Ms Nelson said, noting that the Australian Baha’i Community is one such organisation.
“Social media has had an immeasurable impact on the success of the campaign.”
Ms Nelson said it is important to share positive stories “and to keep the hope going”.
Amnesty International NSW branch committee member, Ms Bachmann, said traditional media had the ability to censor, showing what they think will grab people’s attention.
But social media involved two way communication, Ms Bachmann said.
“It is good for building momentum, gaining new members and keeping cohesion.”
She said there was a tipping point when the views change, and that was when there was enough positive and correct information emerging from the grassroots rather than from the mainstream media.
Among those present at the event were representatives of the Jewish Board of Deputies, the UN Association, Warringah council, the India Club and the University of Notre Dame.
The Human Rights Day celebration held at the Baha’i Centre in Canberra on 6 December included a keynote speech by the 2015 Canberra Citizen of the Year Sue Salthouse, a prominent advocate for the rights of people with disability.
Ms Salthouse spoke on the theme “building an inclusive community”, focussing on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
“We must all work hard in the face of incredible odds to make all rights available to everyone, forever,” Ms Salthouse said.
People with disability had been excluded for decades, even centuries, but now they needed to be consulted and included, and given a place not only at the table but in leadership.
“Inclusion is more than just a ramp,” she said. If we all take the CRPD on board, we will achieve inclusion in our society, and that covers all areas including access to justice, economic security, protection against violence and abuse, participation in political and public life, and participation in cultural life, leisure, recreation and sport, she said.
“Women with disabilities experience multiple discriminations. These lock us out from many parts of the community.”
“Everybody needs to be aware of what needs to be done. That’s how we are changing. I see big changes. People are stepping up to include people with disability.”
The program, chaired by Maryam Bell, included a reading of the UN Secretary-General’s message for Human Rights Day 2015, a performance by young pianist Maitland Gibbs, and a children’s presentation about building peace.