The NSW Law Reform Commission and the NSW Government have shirked their responsibility to recommend the inclusion of people who are blind or deaf on NSW juries, Human Rights Commissioner and Commissioner responsible for Disability Discrimination, Graeme Innes AM, said today.
Presenting the annual Sir Ninian Stephen Lecture at the University of Newcastle, Mr Innes told law students that despite the fact the Law Reform Commission was asked in 2002 to address the exclusion of people who are blind or deaf from serving on NSW juries, they have left this to gather dust.
"I call on both the NSW Government and the NSW Law Reform Commission, as I have on a number of previous occasions, to act on this issue and to recommend and make the changes needed to allow people who are blind or deaf to be on juries," Mr Innes said.
"I know many people who are blind or deaf who feel that they can never be totally accepted into our society as equals until they can fully carry out their responsibilities as citizens."
Mr Innes told the students the lack of progress regarding jury participation for people who are blind or deaf marred progress the NSW legal system had made in other areas such as accessibility for people with physical disabilities and hearing loops for people with hearing impairments.
In a far-ranging speech mixed with factual stories of ordinary people from his life as a lawyer in the former Department of Consumer Affairs, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and the Equal Opportunity Commission in WA, Mr Innes told students they could make a difference in virtually every area of law.
"All you have to do is remember that laws and their application are really just about people in the end," Commissioner Innes said.
The Sir Ninian Stephen Lecture was established in 1993 to mark the arrival of the first group of Bachelor of Laws students at the University of Newcastle.
It is an annual event which is delivered by an eminent lawyer at the start of each academic year.