A history of human rights (A history of Human rights” escrito por Latin Stories Australia)

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I appreciate the Australian democracy because we lost it in Uruguay. “Telmo Languiller”

Telmo Languiller has been the President of the Assembly legislation of the Parliament of Victoria from 2014. It has been a political activist for human and civil rights since he was just 13 years. Telmo has led successful cases of violations of human rights in Uruguay, Chile and El Salvador before international tribunals. As a member of Parliament he has campaigned fiercely for the human rights and equality.

Telmo with the flag of Uruguay. Photo provided by Telmo

Tell us your story

I had a modest but happy education; He was always surrounded by people liveliest neighborhood South and lace, where are most of the Carnival festivities held. My father was a skilled sailor and my mother a nurse in the local hospital. Times were very hard in Uruguay. To support my family I worked during the day and at night went to school. When was 13 years decided to be an activist of the organisation FER68, the social base of the Uruguay national liberation movement, known as the Tupamaro movement. In December of 1972 two friends and I, all of 15 years of age, We were fired and wounded gravity during a student demonstration which was in favour of improving conditions in education. When were we receiving medical treatment, the soldiers took us outside the hospital to the ‘ interrogation ’. They wanted that we give them the names of the leaders of the FER68 and claimed that we did not responsible to the military of shooting, threatening us to not be free unless we firmásemos that statement . At the end, We never gave them names and us accused of being us who shoot. That same night the door of our House was sprayed with bullets. This was a difficult time because friends and family gradually opted for not being linked to my.

In June of 1973 There was a military coup, followed by a nationwide strike that paralyzed the country for 15 days. This event helped us demonstrate to international agencies that the dictatorship had no popular support. Later, in 1973, my colleague in charge of the group send me to Buenos Aires in exile, Since my goal as a political activist was over. I lived in Argentina for a year, While everything is stabilized. During this time, my family decided to leave Uruguay also. We could see emigrated to Australia or Norway since both countries were receiving emigrants unskilled or semi-calificados. As my father had sailed with Australia before and knew the country, said: ‘ Has four stations, eat good meat and women are beautiful “. That was enough for me and my brother.

We arrived in Melbourne the 30 November of 1974. When we arrived we were not talking about English, but we were excited about the possibilities in Australia. At the beginning we live in the hostel of the company for a time and later moved to the hostel for immigrants in Midway.

My first job was in a farm of tobacco in Echuca. Then I worked for MCKAY metallurgy and then the meat company Angliss in Footscray. Encouraged by my parents to continue my education, resume my studies on the 21 years of age. Initially to learn English, and then to continue my higher education. I always understood that education was essential and that he needed to speak English to denounce the violations of human rights in Uruguay. In 1987, I received a Bachelor's degree in Australian cultural studies at the Footscray Institute of technology. I found my education to the Government of Gough Whitlam, who introduced the allowances regime in higher education. I also thank Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser for the continuation of the programme.

During my time at the University constantly participating in political activities in movements pro-democracy of Uruguay and other Latin American countries, and for the freedom of political prisoners. It also did much work to argue for the release of Nelson Mandela.

Work during 15 years with the trade union movement. Unions and specifically, the late John Halfpenny supported my education and provided me a network that gave me the opportunity to work for the Prime Minister Brian Howe under the Hawke and Keating administration up to 1996. When the labour party lost the elections in 1996 I was unemployed for a year and spend that time painting houses and doing a variety of different jobs. During that time I also met labor Parliament members (MP) and I was invited to take part as a member of Parliament.

From 1999 I am an Australian member in the Legislative Assembly of the Labor Party in Victoria, representing the electorate of Sun, Derrimut and Tarneit. My greatest achievement to date, without a doubt, He has been elected unanimously as the first Latin American representative of the Victorian Legislative Assembly; breaking a British tradition of 600 years, without that there should be a Spanish or Latin American voice. This is a victory for the Latino community. I am unbiased and act as an intermediary for both sides (the Government and the opposition). I really appreciate the democracy and freedom of Australia because we lost it in Uruguay.


Language - It was very difficult for me to emigrate to a country where they don't speak the language. Latinos are "social butterflies". Not being able to communicate in my twenties was frustrating. I remember make me sick and depressed mood; I felt isolated. I remember going to a party and not even be able to invite a girl to dance.

Speak with an accent – Not having an English-speaking heritage can be difficult at times. The challenge is to, have to be twice as good to be you considered equal. Today come from a different country and a different accent is well received; However, some institutions are still reluctant to hire people who have a different accent, losing the potential bilingual people. I consider myself a person bilingual but more importantly bicultural.

Racism- Being an immigrant in Australia over the years 70 It was difficult because there was much racism against anyone who seem an alien. It was difficult to go to a bar unless you ask the locals: What are you doing here? I felt intimidated. Modestly, is something of which I am proud that I never susurré or stop talking in Spanish by shame. I am proud of my heritage and I have always kept my identity Latin wherever you go.


Greeting style – Latin Americans are warm people; give us a kiss and a hug to express affection when we greet us (Although it is for the first time). Kiss my teacher at the end of the year in my public school in Uruguay. Remember here at my graduation when I went to kiss the teacher and he was surprised, walked away and told me: What are you up to?

Personal style – We Latin Americans, We are very open people. As soon as we got to know someone, We have us all about our lives. On the other hand, Australians are very reserved. I have worked with people for decades and still nothing about their private lives.

Discrimination – In Latin America there are many classism, Here there is less but it is easily penetrable. In Australia, We are better with respect to equality of gender in Latin America, but (in my experience) with regard to age discrimination is worse.


Education -Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world ‘. Education will transform your life and your community. In my case I have no doubt that if he had not studied, It would have achieved nothing.

Sacrifice -Michelangelo said “The greatest of dangers for most of us, It is not that our aim is too high and we will not reach it, but that is too low and achieve it”. I didn't have as objective the mediocrity (I say this with respect, understanding that we all have different abilities). I know that it is hard, but good things come with sacrifice and determination.

Be open – Today, Australia is a fantastic country to live, Since there are many cultures existing in harmony. Be open to diversity and accept the human being without judgement of the class, ideology, race, income, genus, age or any other stereotype.

In the coming years, Telmo will continue to work in the Victorian public service. We are working in the fight against prejudice, in particular, age discrimination, and human rights. He is also interested in the strengthening of the relationship between Australia and Latin America. In his private life, It will continue enjoying music, long distance Ocean swimming, Remo, Football, the Social Club of Uruguay and his family. One of her dreams is to inspire other Latin Americans to work for the Government.

Interview of and translated by Pilar López

CLick here for the english version:

A big hug

foto firma

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