POLISH AUSTRALIAN

BUSINESS FORUM



"I chose Australia in search of opportunities and a new life in a democratic society. I wanted to use my skills and my drive to join Australia as a fully engaged citizen able to advance her wellbeing without turning my back on my Polish heritage. I cherish both my contributions to advancing civil liberties in multicultural Australia and to the success of the "Solidarity" movement in the 1980s.

I hope, I contributed to creating a much better world."


SEV OZDOWSKI

Professor at the Western Sydney University

Professor Ozdowski is an academic, human rights advocate and former senior public servant. He has been celebrated for his work investigating the issue of children in immigration detention. His report, tabled in Federal Parliament in 2004, helped protect this group of vulnerable children by influencing public perceptions and forcing political action leading to their release, with families, from mandatory detention. 

In his career and life, he has been dedicated to the fight for social justice. His promotion of civil rights and democracy saw him arrested twice in Poland and after arrival in Australia in 1975 rise to become the Australian Human Rights Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner between 2000 and 2005. He also represented Australia at the United Nations in the development of the UN Convention to better protect the rights of those living with disabilities and continued to support the Polish Solidarity movement from his new home.

His work in driving multicultural agenda within Australia was achieved through the development of a range of policies and programs while being a senior member of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Canberra from 1987 to 1996. During this time, he worked on the “National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia”, “Access and Equity Strategy” and “2001. A report from Australia” documents and helped establish the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs and Australia-Indonesia Institute.

As CEO of the South Australian Office of Multicultural and International Affairs from 1996 to 2000, he established a range of new programs including a regional migration program. His focus in this area led him to later in academia to convene three national conferences for advancing social cohesion and nine International Human Rights Education conferences.

Sev is the longest serving Chair of the Australian Multicultural Council (2014-21).


  • Foundation Convenor and Series Coordinator of the annual International Human Rights Conference Series (2010-current)

  • Human Rights Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner (2000-05)

  • Represented Australia at the United Nations and worked on the new UN Convention on Rights of People with Disabilities

  • Worked within the Federal Government portfolios of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Attorney General and Foreign Affairs (1980-96) in advancing Australia’s key multicultural and human rights policies and institutions. 

  • Authored of the ground-breaking report: “National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention: A Last Resort?” (2004) igniting a national debate about Australia’s immigration detention policies and led to children being released from mandatory detention and rethinking the government’s detention policies.

  • Conducted the National Inquiry into Mental Health Services and produced a report: “Not for Service – Experiences of injustices and despair in mental health care in Australia”, which resulted in reform of and major budgetary increases for mental health services across Australia (2005)

  • CEO, Office of Multicultural and International Affairs in South Australia (1996-2000)

  • Longest serving Chair of Australian Multicultural Council (2014-21)

  • Key lobbyist in Australia for the establishment of Polish independence and democracy (1979 -1990)

  • Established the Polish Families Reunion Committee in 1980.

  • Ran the Help Poland Live Appeal (ACT), The Association of Free Poles in Australia – Solidarity Council of ACT, Vice-President, Polish Ex-Servicemen Association Branch 5 in ACT and many more. 

  • President, Australian Council for Human Rights Education (2006-2018)


    • Medal of the Order of Australia (1995) for his service to the Polish community and furthering Australian Polish relations

    • Member of the Order of Australia (2016) for his service to human rights and education

    • Solidarity Medal (2006) in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the human rights movement in Poland

    • Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit by the Polish President (2005)

    • Harkness Fellowship (1984-86), which took him to Harvard, Georgetown, Berkeley Universities to work on race relations, international human rights, and public administration 

    • Friends of Falun Gong Human Rights Award, Washington DC, USA (2021)

    • Doctor of Social Science Honoris Causa, RMIT University, Melbourne (2004)

    • Rotary International Paul Harris Recognition Award for human rights work (2004)

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