At the 2017 Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards in Sydney Professor Gillian Triggs becomes the fifth woman inducted into the Women’s Agenda Hall of Fame, in recognition of her outstanding career and superlative personal and professional leadership.
The former President of the Human Rights Commission joins Wendy McCarthy AO, Ann Sherry, Helen Conway and Elizabeth Broderick as hall of famers. In their own careers, these prominent individuals have each created a leadership legacy to the benefit of Australian women.
In 2012 Professor Triggs retired from her position as the Dean of Sydney University Law School to take up the Human Rights Commission presidency, which seemed a fitting progression for an eminently qualified public international lawyer.
To describe her five years as president as vexed is an understatement of epic proportion.
Triggs stared down two prime ministers, two immigration ministers and the attorney-general in a series of public rows. She was threatened with being fired.
She was asked to resign and accused of lying. She had her professionalism, honesty and integrity questioned and was subject to vicious, unrelenting and deeply personal attacks.
It is hard to recall a public servant as publicly derided by the government of the day as Professor Triggs.
Through it all she remained composed and focused on the task at hand: fulfilling her role as advocate for human rights. She spoke up, fought back when necessary and backed herself.
Gillian admitted that 2015 was probably ‘the most difficult year of her life’ and yet she persisted, and personified leadership, grace under fire and resilience in the process.
To borrow some wisdom from Dr Orison Swett Marden: “Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”
We learned the extent of Gillian Triggs’s capacity for leadership under the most trying of circumstances which is what makes her legacy so compelling.