I’m Graeme Innes, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, And This Is How I Work

I’m Graeme Innes, Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner, And This Is How I Work

Graeme Innes has been Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the past seven years and has also served as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner. He also happens to be legally blind.

As Commissioner, Graeme has been involved in a number of initiatives ranging from the Same Sex: Same Entitlements inquiry in 2007 to the development of the National Disability Strategy and the Disability (Access to Premises – buildings) Standards 2010. He was also responsible for the drafting of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and its ratification by Australia.

In addition to his human rights work, Innes has also made headlines for his legal battles with RailCorp, which he successfully sued earlier this year for failing to provide audible train announcements for the visually impaired; a breach of the Disability Discrimination Act. (Innes was awarded $10,000 which he intends to donate to charity.)

We caught up with Graeme to find out how he works — from the tools he can’t live without to the advice that keeps him motivated.

Current gig: Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Comission
Location: Sydney, NSW
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: Various
One word that best describes how you work: Aural

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

The short answer is my iPhone. This has a whole stack of apps that I use daily and is one of my main work tools. Some of the apps I use the most are messages and calender, various GPS and weather apps, Downcast which I use to make podcasts and TweetList. There are others, but those are the main ones I can’t live without.


What’s your best time-saving trick?

I use Siri a great deal on my iPhone. That saves me a lot of time, whether it’s making appointments, reminding me about things or just searching for an answer to something. I tend not to use the keypad on the iPhone that much. I use a braille keyboard if I’m not using Siri, which connects wirelessly to the iPhone. But Siri is so much quicker.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

I don’t use any to-do list managers; that’s something I should probably get around to. I write to-do lists down manually in my BraileNote and rely on reminders in my calendar.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

The main thing is my Plextalk reader, which I read books and newspapers on. It’s a bit smaller than an iPad and it has speech output so it allows me to read articles as audio files.


I also use a BraileNote, which is kind of like a PDA [for the visually impaired]. I’m also a big fan of Blutooth headsets.

What’s your workspace like?

My workspace is so many different places that it’s hard to answer that question. I use my desk a lot less than I used to. The iPhone means that my workspace is wherever I happen to be, which is handy because I travel a lot in my job.

Even when I’m at my office, I’ll often sit down somewhere else and work with my iPhone, headset and BraileNote. My workspace moves with me; it’s basically the space around me.

What do you listen to while you work?

Most of my work input is received via audio, because I’m not looking at screens obviously. So I don’t tend to listen to music or stuff when I’m working.

Graham Innes

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

I’m better than most people I know at using Twitter. I get lots of information from it and use it to maximise my work output and sharing of information. I’d say I do this better than most, if not all of the people in my area of work.

What’s your sleep routine like?

It’s pretty regular. I tend to get six or seven hours a night and stick to the same bedtime. I’m not one of these people who can get by on very small amounts of sleep.

Fill in the blank: I’d kill to see ________ answer these same questions.

Adam Spencer.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I think Churchill said this, but a lot of people sort of say it to you, which is: “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” Don’t let difficult times stop you — if you keep moving it’s going to get better.

Anything else you want to add for readers/fans?

I’m passionate about the way technology can minimise the impact of disability. So my message to readers would be to maximise the use of technology.

We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.


  • One issue not mentioned in the interview, and that is relevant to this particular audience, is that may web pages are not disability accessible. I work with someone who is blind, and one of the issues that constantly arises is that many web pages and applications are not accessible to the blind.


    I’d be lost without easy access to the internet. I find it horrible to think that people with vision impairment are excluded when it only takes a few small modifications to make all of the information in many webpages accessible to the blind.

    • This is actually a field I worked in briefly – especially for government departments it’s still a big issue. They generally see the word ‘accessibility’ as meaning ‘you can make the font bigger and smaller’..

  • Will old age pensioners get National Disability support. ???
    I saw a bright healthy looking woman in her wheelchair on tv news tonight jumping to her feet with joy.. apart from wheels she was sitting in looked & sounded ok to me.. didn’t look demented or anything like that. Old age pensioners carry afflictions too; loss of hearing, eyesight, balance etc just to name a few ailments.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!