There will be a group effort at the Human Rights Commission to compensate for the loss of its disability commissioner, with the remaining commissioners all taking on disability work when Graeme Innes leaves next month.
The federal government cut the commission's funding by $1.7 million in the budget, reducing the number of commissioners from seven to six. When Mr Innes' term ends in July, he will not be replaced with a new commissioner.
President Gillian Triggs told Fairfax Media that she and the other commissioners had agreed to take a share of the disability workload as it relates to their existing portfolios. For example, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will look at women and disability and Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson will look at issues of freedom around people with disability.
Last year, 37 per cent of discrimination complaints received by the commission related to disability. "It's obviously a very important sector for us," Professor Triggs said.
While she has previously expressed her disappointment over the loss of Mr Innes' position, she said that in the context of cuts across government, "we've just got to be realistic and get on with it".
Attorney-General George Brandis is also expected to appoint one of the six remaining commissioners as Disability Commissioner, along with their other duties.
It has been common for commissioners to perform dual roles in the past and Senator Brandis has argued that the position has not been downgraded or abolished.
Mr Innes, who is legally blind, has been calling on the government to reverse its decision, arguing that people with disabilities will be disadvantaged by the loss of a full-time commissioner. He has also argued that the commissioner should be someone who has a personal understanding of disability.
Professor Triggs said that she would also appoint someone with a "lived experience" of disability at a level below a commissioner, who would act as a spokesperson.
On Thursday, Mr Innes praised the efforts made by the commission to compensate for his departure, but said they did not make up for a full-time person.
He currently spends about 60 hours a week in the job and pointed out that the other commissioners would still be busy in their own, primary roles, while the new spokesperson would be in a less senior role.
"You're just not getting the same capacity."
He stressed he did not want to criticise the commission, noting: "what it has been given is a lesser hand to play."
The story Human Rights Commission to spread extra load after Disability Commissioner's departure first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.