Advocating for human rights

Advocacy is about speaking out on human rights issues and taking action to improve a situation. Advocates can be lawyers, professionals working for an organisation and individual citizens, like friends, relatives and co-workers.

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) makes it possible for advocates to challenge public services and policies to make them consistent with human rights and fair for everyone.

The Commission provides information and resources for people who are working to bring about change through:

  • self-advocacy – standing up for yourself
  • individual advocacy – standing up for someone else’s rights
  • systemic advocacy – if you are trying to change a system to address the structural causes of inequality.

Since it came into effect, there has been a growing understanding in the community about how the Charter can be used to help improve the lives of and opportunities available to Victorians.

For example, advocates have played an important role in using the Charter to:

  • deliver significant improvements in the support provided to marginalised and vulnerable Victorians, including Indigenous peoples, people with disability and those with mental illness
  • help consumers be engaged more often and more effectively in designing and planning services
  • bring about changes to the daily operations of many organisations, making it easier for people to access information and services, and ensuring services are fair and effective
  • ensure that human rights are considered across a broad range of issues, from reviewing taxation policies for people affected by the February 2009 bushfires to improving pay equity in local councils and providing better protection for international students.

How the Commission works with advocates

The Commission plays an important role to help advocates and local communities in Victoria understand and assert their rights.

We provide human rights training programs for advocates and we answer questions and provide information about the Charter through our Enquiry Line.

The Commission also acts as a strong advocate for human rights.

As part of our role under the Charter, we intervene in court and tribunal proceedings that raise questions about human rights, we undertake human rights reviews and we prepare an annual report on the operation of the Charter.