“It’s crucial to the exercise of rights to know about them,” she tells EducationHQ.
“So this is where that idea of intergenerational transfer of understanding comes in, so that through education our young people can know about their rights so they can exercise them.”
Croucher wants Australian kids to be able to recite their rights, as they can in many countries around the world.
“Countries that have come out of wars or revolutions tend to want to own their rights in a different way,” she says.
“So in the US, they are part of their constitution, [and that] means that kids can all recite their rights, which I think is wonderful, but a lot of the rights questions, the freedoms questions have to be litigated.
“And ... to me, that’s not the model that works for the Australian sensibility of today. But what I would like to see is that I can have conversations about rights with my grandchildren over our cornflakes on the weekend. I’d like to see them on my fridge.”
Croucher says that human rights education can be embedded throughout the curriculum, particularly in history and civics and citizenship classes.
“While there’s not a specific place for the idea of rights in the way there would be, say, in the US, there are lots of places in the curriculum where an understanding of rights and freedoms can really enhance understanding.
“So that’s where the materials that the Human Rights Commission has developed around the history and civics and citizenship part of the curriculum is designed, so that teachers can use the resources and pick and choose what works for their classes to build that understanding of rights.”
The AHRC has developed a range of resources that teachers can use to provide kids with a good human rights education.
“There are materials that are designed for primary teachers and students, there’s material for secondary. There’s even a beautiful song for pre-schoolers about the colours of Australia which is adorable,” Croucher says.
The AHRC’s ‘Rights and Freedoms Calendar’ highlights important dates and anniversaries relating to human rights, with links to relevant education resources.
“When I started at the commission one of the things that I wanted to do was to create a sense [that] every day is important and that we remember important moments in history, whether it’s the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, whether it’s the Mabo case ... why that’s important, why Reconciliation Week finishes on Mabo Day.
“To me, if you understand about your past you are better informed about your present and able to look to the future with that knowledge in place.
“We launched the Rights and Freedoms Calendar at an education conference in March and it draws together all of the educational material and resources that we have at the commission.”
The AHRC is also undertaking a ‘national conversation’ on human rights this year, and teachers are encouraged to make submissions.
“We’re looking at the possibility of sending in stories, drawings, videos, letters, poems...” Croucher says.
“We’ll be framing some thoughts as to how students and teachers can get involved actively, particularly towards a conference that we’re holding on the 11th of October, which will be a very high level event.”
At the conference, the AHRC will release a draft reform agenda for human rights in Australia based on public submissions, consultations and workshops.
Submissions will close on August 30.
“The idea of [the national conversation] is to ask the question ‘what kind of Australia do we want to live in?’ And not just for ourselves, but for our children and for our children’s children, and to look at it in an aspirational way,” Croucher says.
“I’ve been talking about it as a ‘sky anchor’, throwing a sky anchor out there to lift the conversation about rights and freedoms in terms of the Australia we want to live in.”