Monday, 28 November 2011

Rowan Silva nominated for human rights award

Nick Dalton
Monday, November 28, 2011
© The Cairns Post

Cairns solicitor Rowan Silva, who successfully sued the Defence Department in a landmark Federal Court civil judgment in which a Cairns rape victim was awarded $400,000 compensation, is a finalist for the prestigious Australian Human Rights Commission Law Award.

The 50-year-old is one of only four finalists nationwide with the award being announced in Sydney on December 9. Mr Silva, of Wettenhall Silva Solicitors, has been recognised for his long standing commitment to promoting and advancing human rights in Australia. "I am both delighted and humbled to be chosen as a finalist for this year’s Human Rights Law Award," he said. "Human rights work has been intrinsic to my whole career as a lawyer. "While this work has at times been extremely demanding, it has also been exceptionally satisfying, providing career highlights that have entrenched my faith in our legal system to recognise injustice and provide redress when fundamental rights have been breached."

In the landmark court case, the woman was awarded $400,000 compensation while the department was found to be liable for Able Seaman Austin Smith’s conduct and his two superior officers were found liable for her victimisation by the sailor. During the court hearing she told of being subjected to pornographic images, lewd messages and sexual harassment at a navy logistics office in Kenny St in 2001 in the months leading up to the rape.

Other human rights work, which has been recognised by the Human Rights Commission, includes discrimination complaints made on behalf of two Aboriginal women who had been refused service in a hotel in Townsville in 1991, action on behalf of an indigenous prison officer who was a victim of entrenched discriminatory attitudes and behaviour at the Townsville Correctional Centre as well as numerous cases involving sex discrimination, sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination.

Most recently, Mr Silva represented a complainant in an action against the Cairns Regional Council which concerned unlawful discrimination on the basis of political belief or activity. The complaint was upheld after a four-day trial with Mr Silva’s client being awarded $368,000 in compensation, a record amount for any case decided under Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.

Far North Queensland Law Association president Julian Brown said Mr Silva was a long standing member of the FNQLA and a well respected member of the legal profession. "He has long been known as a champion of the disadvantaged in Cairns and the Far North and for advocating on behalf of those who have difficulty advocating on behalf of themselves," he said.

Mandy Shircore, a senior lecturer at James Cook University, nominated Mr Silva for the award.
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