The Morrison government has appointed Chin-Leong Tan, a leader in the multicultural community, as the new Race Discrimination Commissioner.
The Malaysian-born Tan, from Victoria, who has most recently been Director of Multicultural Engagement at Swinburne University of Technology, replaces Tim Soutphommasane, who in August completed his term.
The outspoken Soutphommasane was frequently the target of conservative critics, some of whom argued for the position to be scrapped.
The post is within the Human Rights Commission and deals with complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act. Section 18C of that Act has been a centre of intense controversy, with the government attempting to amend it but failing to get the numbers in the Senate.
Announcing Tan’s appointment, Attorney-General Christian Porter said his “story is like that of so many Australians who were born overseas and chose to make a new life in Australia.”
Tan studied in Australia and practiced here as a lawyer for more than 20 years.
In 2011-15, he was chairperson and commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. He was appointed by Victorian Liberal premier Ted Baillieu.
In 1999 Tan had unsuccessfully sought Liberal party preselection for a state seat.
Tan has been a member of the Victorian Police Commissioner’s Human Rights Strategic Advisory Group; Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Multicultural Services Delivery Inter-Departmental Group, and the Victorian Government’s Ministerial Council for a Multilingual and Multicultural Victoria.
As well, he served on the Australian Football League’s Multicultural Focus Group.
Porter said that while at Swinburne, Tan led the development of a Charter of Cultural Diversity. Swinburne received an award at the 2017 Victorian Multicultural Excellence Awards.
“Mr Tan also has extensive experience within the legal profession, having served on various local council bodies and associations, providing him with great experience in a range of community engagement activities, including with Australia’s multicultural communities,” Porter said.
Speaking in 2013, Tan said that while racism could never be eliminated, it could be minimised. “We can put in place in society a sense of who we are … a sense of goodwill and commitment to become a better society where we understand each other”.
Tan takes up his five-year term on Monday.