Australia one step closer to enshrining Human Rights in law

May 31, 2024 |

The Federation of Community Legal Centres welcomes the recommendation of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights inquiry into Australia’s human rights framework to legislate an Australian Human Rights Act.  

We believe this to be a huge step forward for all Australians. A human rights act is a powerful tool for challenging injustice, and would help give our community a better understanding of their human rights and freedoms. 

The onus is now on the Australian Government to respond to and act on this recommendation. We urge for the Australian Government to legislate an Australian Human Rights Act now.  

Having human rights enshrined in our law would mean better Federal Government decisions, policies and services. This would benefit all people in our community, and would take Australia one step closer to becoming a fair, equal, and safe society for everyone. 

There are many recent examples of human rights breaches that might have been prevented if an Australian Human Rights Act had been in place. Various Royal Commissions, including into Aged Care, Disability, and the Robodebt scheme, have revealed the extent to which Australians have had their rights disregarded. Enforcing human rights standards in the law is essential for ensuring that such injustices cannot happen again. 

Australia is the only western liberal democracy without a legislated Human Rights Act or similar instrument in our laws, despite widespread support. Recent polling shows around three in four Australians support a Human Rights Act. 

In Victoria, public advocacy and political will led to a Victorian Human Rights Charter since 2006. Community lawyers in Victoria use the Victorian Human Rights Charter to help people have their rights respected, and to defend the rights of minority groups, such as children and young people, and people with disability.   

Victorian Community Legal Centres are in favour of a national human rights act. We urge the Commonwealth Government to agree to the inquiry’s recommendation and legislate an Australian Human Rights Act now. 

Louisa Gibbs, CEO at the Federation of Community Legal Centres said:  

“The inquiry’s recommendation to enshrine human rights in federal law signifies important progress for Australia as a democracy and as a country. Human rights are a set of basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person in the world, but in the absence of enforcement via legislation, abuses can and do take place every day.  

“Community lawyers know well the power of legislation in delivering justice. We see an Australian Human Rights Act as critical to making our society safe, equal and thriving.  

“Although we welcome the outcome of the inquiry, we recognise that we’re not there yet. We urge the Australian Government to act now, to safeguard all our human rights in the future.” 

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