Dramatis personæ for the Royal Commission's Health Services Union hearings next week
Last week's evidence at the Royal Commission

Gillian Triggs gets a lesson about armed guards, Long Bay Gaol and effective policy




Emeritus Professor Gillian Triggs is the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, taking up her appointment by the Commonwealth Attorney-General in 2012. She was Dean of the Faculty of Law and Challis Professor of International Law at the University of Sydney from 2007-12 and Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law from 2005-7. She is a former Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers and a Governor of the College of Law. 
Professor Triggs graduated in Law from the University of Melbourne in 1968 and gained a PhD in 1982. She has combined an academic career with international commercial legal practice and worked with governments and international organizations on human rights law. She hopes to focus her Presidency on the implementation in Australian law of the human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, and to work with nations in the Asia Pacific region on practical approaches to human rights.
Professor Triggs' long-standing commitment to legal education will build upon the Commission's efforts to inform Australians, especially children, about their fundamental human rights.
She has been a consultant on International Law to Mallesons Stephen Jaques, a Board Member of the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH), the Australian representative on the Council of Jurists for the Asia Pacific Forum for National Human Rights Institutions, Chair of the Board of the Australian International Health Institute, a member of the Attorney General's International Legal Service Advisory Council and Chair of the Council of Australian Law Deans.
Professor Triggs is married to Alan Brown AM, a former Australian diplomat, and has two children. She lives in Sydney.
This story from the easily impressed Tim Elliot speaks volumes about how Fairfax sees Ms Triggs.
With her polished vowels and perfect diction, the 68-year-old British-born Gillian Triggs is shaping up as Scott Morrison's most powerful foe to date. But who is she?

A former professional ballerina and daughter of a British World War II tank commander, Gillian Triggs is an unusual blend of poise and power, as Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is discovering.

The first thing you notice about Triggs, aside from her pale honey coloured hair and pearl earrings, are her manners, which are mesmerising and create a force field of niceness, a form of very agreeable mind control 

In her own impeccably polite way, the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission this week more or less called Morrison a liar, insisting his claim that children in detention received daily care was not true and that he needed to be "better advised". With her polished vowels and perfect diction, the 68-year-old Triggs is shaping up as perhaps the Minister's most powerful foe, a woman of formidable intellect whose unlikely career and personal tribulations have honed an instinct for human suffering and the rights of the neglected.

"When I was younger, I thought one could build on the past," says Triggs, who worked in the 1960s at the Dallas Police Department, where she advised the Chief of Police on civil rights legislation. "But I have learned that we need to be eternally vigilant in ensuring human rights in a modern democracy."

Triggs was born in London, in 1945. Her parents had been in the war, her mother in the Royal Navy, and her father, Richard, as a tank commander in North Africa ("he was personally responsible for destroying Rommel's army," Triggs says). After the war, Richard returned to his family's jewellery business, but life in London was grim: TB was rife, and so in 1958, they migrated, with Gillian's younger sister, Carol, to Melbourne.

"I was furious," Triggs says. "I didn't want to come at all, because I was a professional ballet student. That was my whole life - every afternoon and all weekend I was at ballet. To come to Australia was an appalling idea, and I thought my parents were dreadful."