Good decision making with the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – How council planning decisions can consider human rights

Introduction

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 recognises 20 key human rights, and thinking about the Charter is not only a part of good decision making, it’s the law.

The Charter requires public authorities, including councils, to consider the Charter in the way they go about their work, deliver services, apply laws and make decisions, including planning decisions.

This page is home to a series of videos that demonstrate how the Charter is used by councils in regard to planning matters, as well as resources to help you consider and apply human rights in your work.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins introduces the series in this first video.

Taking a human rights approach to planning matters

The following two videos feature planners from metropolitan and regional councils discussing how they use the Charter in their work, looking at certain questions:

  • Are human rights relevant to planning decisions?
  • How do human rights help Councils to make better decisions?
  • And what support do Council officers need to get it right?
  • Felicity Leahy, Manager Social Development, Hume City Council
    John Karageorge, Manager Statutory Planning, Hume City Council
    Henry Dong, Town Planner, Statutory Planning, Hume City Council
    Ross Douglas, Manager Statutory Planning, City of Greater Bendigo

    Support provided to Council staff to consider the Charter

    Using the Charter to help resolve difficult issues – a contentious planning application

    Human rights are a key consideration when addressing the social and economic impacts of planning applications. The Charter requires public authorities, including councils, to consider human rights when making a decision and to not act incompatibly with human rights. The Charter also provides a framework for considering when human rights may be lawfully limited.

    In the matter of Rutherford & Ors v Hume City Council [2014] VCAT 786, a group applied to build a mosque next to a church in an industrial zone.

    The Al Sadiq Foundation Ltd sought to establish a Shi’ite Islamic mosque and related facilities on its land in Coolaroo. There is currently no Shi’ite mosque in the area. Significantly, the mosque was proposed to be located on land immediately adjacent to the St Mary’s Ancient Church of the East, whose congregation comprises people mainly of Assyrian background, many of whom have fled violence and human rights abuses in Iraq at the hands of Islamic extremists.

    Council considered the application under the Environment and Planning Act 1987 and the Hume Planning Scheme, together with its obligations under the Charter. The Council granted the application for a permit, after considering that:

    • the planning scheme does not distinguish different faiths but supports planning that responds to community needs.
    • Council is obliged as a public authority to consider the Charter in its decision making and to act compatibly with human rights in planning matters.
    • the application to develop a place of worship engages the right of the Islamic community to freedom of thought and religious belief. Refusing to grant the application based on perceived intimidation would unreasonably limit this right.

    VCAT upheld Council's grant of the planning permit. View VCAT's decision on the Austlii website

    In the following video, Felicity Leahy, Henry Dong and John Karageorge discuss how the Charter was used in Hume City Council’s decision.

    Resources

    Need more information? Contact the Commission on 1300 292 153

    You can also check out these resources:

    Victorian Public Sector Human Rights Network

    The VPS Human Rights Network aims to provide information, ideas and networking opportunities to public sector employees who are interested in applying human rights in their work. Members of the network receive email updates, invites to events and resources to assist public decision-making. Subscribe online to join the network today.