The 2016 report Growing a human rights culture aims to assist Victorians to reflect on how far we have come in embedding a human rights culture since the Charter’s enactment in 2006.
The report draws upon a survey of more than 100 departments, agencies and local councils to understand the activities undertaken in 2016 to improve the government’s human rights culture.
The survey asked public authorities what activities they undertook in 2016 in three cultural influence areas, including senior leadership, operational capacity and external input and oversight. It also draws upon data from the Victoria Public Sector Commission’s 2016 People Matter Survey.
The results indicate that while public authorities are taking steps to improve their human rights culture, they could be doing more. Under senior leadership influence the report finds that public authorities are encouraging senior leaders to champion human rights, however not many are publicly communicating the government’s commitment to human rights and the Charter.
Under the operational capacity influence, the survey results show that public authorities are strong on ensuring their operational policies are compliant with human rights obligations, however more could be done to incorporate human rights into team business plan activities.
For external input and oversight influence, the survey results reveal that public authorities factor human rights into complaints handling policies, but they could improve how they consult with the community on human rights issues.
The report also finds efforts are being made across government to advance human rights in Victoria, particularly the government’s efforts to address the prevalence of family violence. These efforts demonstrate human rights being placed at the core of culture, policy and decision-making.
Additionally the landmark Supreme Court decision of Certain Children by their Litigation Guardian Sister Marie Brigid Arthur v Minister for Families and Children highlights the critical importance of proper consideration by public authorities of human rights in government decision-making. In this case Justice Garde found the Victorian government’s decision to transfer a number of young people from a juvenile justice centre to a unit within a maximum security prison to be unlawful because the decision was made without proper consideration of the young peoples’ human rights. The court’s decision illustrates how powerful the Charter can be in providing a check on government decision-making and upholding Victorians’ rights.