Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP has tabled a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission that calls for a renewed National Human Rights Framework and National Human Rights Act to better protect the rights of all people in Australia.
The report, Revitalising Australia’s commitment to human rights, provides 12 recommendations to improve government accountability, increase awareness about human rights, and provide all people with better access to justice in case their rights are breached.
Commission President, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, said: “No matter who we are or what our life circumstances are, we all have the right to be treated with respect and dignity by our government, the people who work for it, and by fellow community members.
“This report proposes a major reset of Australia’s human rights framework so that the rights of all people can be better understood and properly protected. It sets out a reform agenda to modernise protections and meet the challenges of 21st century life.”
Tomorrow evening, the Attorney-General will deliver the annual Human Rights Day Oration at the 2023 Australian Human Rights Awards, which are hosted by the Commission and recognise outstanding achievements in Australia to uphold human rights.
Earlier this year, the Attorney-General announced an Inquiry into Australia’s human rights framework by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Committee has now conducted public hearings and received over 300 submissions. Its report is due in March 2024.
The Inquiry is considering the model for a national Human Rights Act that the Commission proposed in March 2023. Under that model, people with human rights complaints could endeavour to reach a solution through conciliation or administrative appeal, supported by the Commission, and then refer the matter to the Federal Court if required.
The Commission’s proposed model for a Human Rights Act also places obligations on government to ensure effective participation of Indigenous peoples in decision making, equal access to justice in all processes that affect people, and to consider the human rights impacts of climate change and the basic rights to housing and an adequate standard of living.
The Commission’s new report, Revitalising Australia’s commitment to human rights, builds on its model for a national Human Rights Act by also detailing a framework that would support the Act. This includes a establishing a National Human Rights Indicator Index, annual human rights statements to Parliament, and a national human rights education program.
The report is the culmination of the Commission’s major, five-year project, Free & Equal: An Australian Conversation on Human Rights. The project has examined Australia’s legal framework around human rights and anti-discrimination, and has involved extensive consultation with government, stakeholder groups and civil society.
Professor Croucher said: “Australia can, and should, do better in protecting human rights. Our federal system of law, policy and practice needs significant reform and modernisation to serve the needs of 21st century Australia.
“The reforms proposed in this report will contribute to a better quality of life for all Australians. They will embed safeguards for people’s human rights, ensuring that dignity and respect are at the centre of government actions and decision making.”
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