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COVID-19 information

Commission Commission – General
National Information Service and Complaints: Our National Information Service phone line and our Complaints function remain operational. If you have concerns about discrimination or other breaches of human rights, we are ready to assist you. Contact us on 1300 656 419 or 02 9284 9600, Monday to Friday between the hours of 10AM to 1:30PM AEST or email us at any time at infoservice@humanrights.gov.au.To lodge a complaint, go to humanrights.gov.au/complaints

Our offices and areas open to the public have been closed until further notice to protect the public and our staff. You can still contact us online or by phone here.

Frequently asked questions

Australian Human Rights Commission

Discrimination and impacts of COVID-19 on particular groups

Health

  • Is testing for COVID-19 available to everyone?

    Please visit the website of your local state or territory health authority to find information on current testing criteria for COVID-19. A number of states and territories have expanded the criteria you must meet before you are able to be tested.

    Regardless of the criteria in your state, everyone must be able to access necessary health and medical care.

  • Are vaccines for COVID-19 available to everyone?

    Vaccines are effective in saving lives. Please visit the website of your local state or territory health authority to find information on how and where you can get vaccinated.

    Regardless of the criteria in your state, everyone must be able to access necessary health and medical care. 

    More information on COVID-19 Vaccines and human rights is available in the COVID-19 and Human Rights section of our website.

  • Where can I access support for my mental health during the pandemic?

    The Department of Health’s ‘Head to Health’ website provides digital mental health resources. This includes a page on mental health and COVID-19 which can be found here.

    Beyond Blue has a Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service which includes online forums, online counselling, and telephone counselling. Visit the website or phone 1800 512 345

    Additional resources include:

  • Where can children and young people access support for their mental health?

    Along with the resources laid out in the question above, there are services able to support children's mental health during this potentially challenging time.

    The Kids Helpline has phone, email and WebChat services. You can call them 24/7 on 1800 55 1800 or contact them here.

    Headspace also has resources for young people on how to cope during the pandemic. They can be found here.

Police, detention and justice

  • What additional powers do police have and what are my rights?

    Some states and territories have made different rules about what you can and cannot do when emergency health orders are in force, and they are using different methods to enforce those rules, including by giving police new powers. You can find more information about the rules in your state or territory at the following links:

    Regardless of what rules are in place, you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity in all interactions with police.

    You have the right not to be discriminated against for any reason, including on the basis of sex, age, race, or disability.

    You also have the right to be informed what the police powers are during this time, and to expect they will be applied fairly and consistently. The powers must be proportionate and used by police only to the extent necessary to prevent the virus spreading.

  • Who should I contact if I have concerns about my treatment by police?

    Particularly during times of crisis and when police have been granted increased powers, processes for handling complaints when there is police misconduct must be independent, impartial, timely and must hold police misconduct to account.

    You can find more information about where to make a complaint about police misconduct in your state or territory at the links below:

  • What are the risks to people in detention at this time?

    Adequate physical distancing may not be possible in crowded detention facilities, such as immigration detention facilities, prisons, police lockups and jails. Many people in detention are also vulnerable due to existing chronic health conditions.

    The Commission acknowledges the work of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in providing advice to the Government on preventing and managing a potential outbreak of COVID-19 in detention settings.

    Public health experts, including the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases (ASID) and the Australian College of Infection Prevention and Control (ACIPC), have advised that an effective response to protect the health of people in immigration detention and the broader community requires the release of people who do not pose significant security or health risks into the community. In March 2020, the Human Rights Commissioner wrote to the Department of Home Affairs to request urgent action to implement this advice.

    While people remain in detention, they must have access to adequate healthcare and hygiene facilities.

    The Human Rights Commission supports the advice of Australia’s health experts. It is critical that the health and human rights of vulnerable people in detention are protected.

    Further information can also be found in the Commission’s Management of COVID-19 risks in immigration detention report.

  • Who can I contact about mistreatment or conditions in detention?

    If you have concerns about your own or someone else’s treatment or conditions in prison or youth justice centres, you can contact the Ombudsman in your state or territory:

    If you have concerns about your own or someone else’s treatment or conditions in detention, please contact us.

    People in immigration detention can also contact the Australian Red Cross via the information on their website here.

  • I am currently in detention, what rights do I have regarding visitors?

    To help stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure vulnerable members of the prison population are protected, many states and territories have stopped allowing social or family visitors to their detention facilities.

    The Commission welcomes reports of initiatives to ensure people in detention can maintain social and family connections via video and phone.

    In detention, you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity and must not face unreasonable restrictions on corresponding with your friends and family.

  • I’m in quarantine in a hotel, what are my rights?

    Some people arriving from overseas are being quarantined in hotels for 14 days after returning to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

    Other than restrictions on movement necessary to ensure public health, you should be able to access all other rights as you would if you were quarantined in your own home.

    You should still have enough nutritious food, access to hygiene facilities and the ability to contact your friends and family.

    You are also entitled to full information about why you are being detained and how long for. You are still entitled to seek independent legal and medical advice.

    You are still entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

  • My court hearing has been moved to a virtual format, what are my rights?

    Some Australian courts have begun conducting virtual hearings to help stop the spread of COVID-19. These include hearings using audio and audio-visual software.

    There is evidence that virtual hearings can have a disproportionately negative impact on people with a disability, particularly those with a cognitive impairment, mental health condition and/or neurodiverse condition, and their ability to seek justice.

    There are also concerns about privacy, confidentiality, and the ability of defendants to privately communicate with their legal representation.

    Courts must continue to ensure participants in virtual court proceedings have accessible information about their rights, including their right to raise concerns about their participation.

  • My jury trial or hearing is not proceeding. Is this allowed?

    The Commission is concerned that measures introduced by courts in some states and territories to help stop the spread of COVID-19 may affect the right to access a fair trial. This includes measures to halt all new jury trials.

    In many states and territories, protections are in place to ensure the consent of all parties, including the accused, before a trial by judge alone can occur. All states and territories must ensure appropriate protections are in place to protect the right to access a fair trial.

    The Commission will continue to monitor developments in this area.

Employment, housing and business

Further information on COVID-19

COVID-19 reports

The Commission has developed reports on COVID-19 human rights related issues, including: