PERSONAL: Female. Education: Earned LL.B (honors), M.A. (public policy).
ADDRESSES: Agent—Fran Bryson, Bryson Agency Australia Pty. Ltd., P.O. Box 226, Flinders Lane Post Office, Melbourne 8009, Australia; fax: 61-3-9621-2788.
CAREER: Attorney, consultant, activist, and author. Admitted to the bar of Western Australia, 1972; Western Australian Law Reform Commission, commissioner and chairman, 1986-90; commissioner for equal opportunity, Victoria, Australia, 1990-94; legal consultant, 1994-2000; established Office of Children's Rights Commissioner, 2000, director, 2000-01; Acting Commissioner for Equal Opportunity in Western Australia, 2001-02; anti-corruption commissioner for Western Australia, 2002—. Chair, Council of the Financial Services Complaints Resolution Scheme; commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission; senior fellow, Law School (Melbourne); visiting scholar, Murdoch's School of Social Inquiry; chair, National Children's and Youth Law Centre; member of board of governors, Australian Council of Social Service. Public speaker and human rights activist.
MEMBER: National Federation of Australian Women (former director).
The Commonwealth's Role in Preventing Child Abuse:A Report to the Minister for Family Services, Australian Institute of Family Studies (Melbourne, Australia), 1995.
(With assistance from Jenny Lee) Rooting Democracy:Growing the Society We Want, Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1997.
(With Joan Kirner) The Women's Power Handbook, illustrations by Judy Horacek, Viking (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Meg Montague) Resilient Children and YoungPeople, Deaken Human Services Australia (Malvern, Victoria, Australia), 1999.
Political Pinballs: The Plight of Child Refugees inAustralia, Murdoch University (Perth, Australia), 2001.
Contributor to books, including Workplace Discrimination in Victoria, LAAMS Publications (Bondi Junction, New South Wales, Australia), 1996; and Employment Law and Industrial Relations, Leo Cussen Institute (Melbourne, Australia), 2003. Also contributor to periodicals, including Big Issue and Eureka Street. Columnist for The Age.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A biography of Joan Kirner, first woman premier of Victoria, Australia.
SIDELIGHTS: Moira Rayner is a noted Australian attorney, writer, speaker, and activist. Many of her efforts and appointments have focused on human rights, equal opportunity, workplace discrimination, youth law, and economic stability and opportunities. Throughout her career, Rayner has held many posts on Australian equal opportunity and human rights commissions.
In her Rooting Democracy: Growing the Society We Want, Rayner suggests that "Australia has failed to deliver on the promise of genuine democracy," according to H. S. Albinski in Choice. Australian civil society suffers from marginalization because of "insidious market-driven individualism, intolerance of dissent, and the aggrandizement of executive power," Albinski quoted Rayner as writing in the book. Privatization of Australian government functions "is occurring not only through the sale and contracting out of public assets to the private sector, but also more fundamentally through efforts by governments and corporations to transform publicly aware citizens into isolated consumers," observed Timothy Marjoribanks in the Melbourne Journal of Politics. Rayner offers a "wide-ranging and provocative analysis of Australian democracy," its failures and shortcomings, and what can be done to rescue Australian democracy from political and governmental forces that are more interested in serving their own interests than the interests of their constituents, Marjoribanks commented.
The first part of the book contains Rayner's theories and ideas on what constitutes a healthy democracy. She urges "a resumption of commitment to collective action and the engagement of governments with their people," wrote Carmen Lawrence in Meanjin. The larger second section offers Rayner's close analysis of the "forces that weaken and threaten" Australian society and "diminish individual rights and freedoms," Lawrence commented. She provides case studies of instances of uncontrolled and unaccountable government operations in Australia, particularly in Victoria, where her professional work brought her into direct contact with the lethargic, self-interested fragments of bureaucracy that she identifies as sapping the power of democratic Australian society. Rayner is "relentless in ferreting out offenders against the democratic ideal," Lawrence commented. Among her cases, Lawrence noted, are "recent examples of Australian governments moving to muzzle dissenting voices and independent watchdogs in response to reasonable criticism and adverse publicity"; the lack of "curtailment of forces that should restrain and balance the sometimes feudal power of executives flush with a large mandate"; and the dangers of judicial independence and "the increasing curtailment of citizens' rights 'to challenge decisions that infringe their rights and freedoms.'" Deborah Zion, writing in the Australian Book Review, observed that "what readers may find unsettling in Rooting Democracy is Rayner's revelation of the ruinous inroads that have been made into those institutions that once ensured accountability. Courts and tribunals have been disbanded, 'whistle blowers' harassed, and the possibility of protection through legal action has become an option only for the affluent."
To reclaim a firm grip on democracy in Australia, Rayner advocates strict accountability of institutions; a public sector that intervenes where necessary to preserve justice and equality; and a thorough engagement of citizens from the grassroots level all the way to constitutional reform levels. Zion struck a note of pessimism, observing that "Rayner may have too much faith in her readers. She believes that when people understand the urgency of restoring a real democratic system based on a genuine rather than a mealy-mouthed commitment to the twin tenets of justice and fairness, and that when people rediscover the value of public life, then they will act. One hopes rather than expects that she is eventually proved right."
Lawrence remarked that "Rooting Democracy deserves a wide readership, not least because it is one of the few Australian attempts to deal comprehensively with the questions we must tackle if we are to live together co-operatively while still protecting individual rights." The book "provides a spirited critique of contemporary political practice," Marjoribanks commented. "Rayner's advocacy of the development of a vibrant civil society through the popular creation of a communicative politics provides a real vision of an alternative politics" for Australia.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Australian Book Review, June, 1997, Deborah Zion, "The Curse of Interesting Times," pp. 28-29; July, 1999, Deborah Zion, "Women and the Power Game," p. 14.
Choice, January, 1998, H. S. Albinski, review of Rooting Democracy: Growing the Society We Want, p. 898.
Meanjin, Volume 56, number 2, 1997, Carmen Lawrence, "Where Have All the Watchdogs Gone?," pp. 238-243.
Melbourne Journal of Politics, 1998, Timothy Marjoribanks, review of Rooting Democracy, p. 202.*