Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland has opened the 18th Annual Regional Human Rights Defenders Program at UNSW, pledging a new era of government commitment to human rights and the international rule of law.

Mr McClelland said the Rudd Government was serious about its human rights obligations at home and abroad.

Domestically, Mr McClelland highlighted the government's commitment to removing discrimination against same-sex couples, with legislation to this effect passing through the Senate this week.

The Human Rights Defenders Program is being held in Australia for the first time in 10 years to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10.

Thirty activists and community organisers from 18 countries including Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Fiji are taking part in the three-week program.

The course is run by the Diplomacy Training Program (DTP), an independent not-for-profit organisation founded in 1989 by Nobel Peace Laureate and East Timor President José Ramos-Horta and affiliated with the Faculty of Law.

Also attending the opening were Deputy Chancellor Gabrielle Upton, DTP Executive Director Patrick Earle, Counsel General of East Timor Mr Abel Guterres, Dean of the Faculty of Law David Dixon, and four former Law deans including founding Dean Professor Hal Wootten.

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Media Contact: Steve Offner | 02 9385 8107 | s.offner@unsw.edu.au