Maurice Blackburn Principal Lawyer Giridharan (Giri) Sivaraman will start as the new Race Discrimination Commissioner on March 4.
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomed the Brisbane-based lawyer’s appointment this week.
Born in India and raised in Zambia before migrating to Australia, Giri has called Brisbane home for the past nine years.
Giri is Chair of the Queensland Law Society (QLS) Industrial Law Committee, a member of the employment law subcommittee and an Accredited Specialist in workplace relations.
He was awarded Solicitor of the Year (Large firm) at last year’s QLS Excellence in Law Awards.
Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Chief Executive Office 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 said.
“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 will be a fine Race Discrimination Commissioner.”
AHRC Commission President Rosalind Croucher said: “We are very excited by this appointment. On behalf of the Commission, I would like to warmly welcome Giridharan Sivaraman to the role of Race Discrimination Commissioner.
“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 currently the Chair of Multicultural Australia, and leads Maurice Blackburn’s Queensland Employment Law department. He has run many state and national race discrimination cases and led the pro bono compensation scheme for underpaid 7-Eleven workers, many of whom came from migrant backgrounds.
As a member of the Queensland Multicultural Advisory Council, Mr Sivaraman appeared at a state parliamentary inquiry to demand legal reform to better protect the rights of victims of racial vilification.
In his advocacy, he also committed to the protection and promotion of the rights of First Nations peoples.
Professor Croucher said: “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 means 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, and it is therefore vital that we amplify efforts to empower communities to address racism at its root causes and continue our 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.”
He takes over from Chin Tan who finishes his five-year term.