Victoria is the only Australian state to have enshrined a range of protections under its Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, which enforces human rights law across government and public sector operations.
Today's report by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission highlights the Charter’s effectiveness in resolving a variety of disputes in 2017, from the Victorian Government’s decision to transfer children to the Grevillea unit within Barwon adult prison to the courts' treatment of people with a disability.
The Charter was used to protect Victorians in 'closed environments' such as care homes, psychiatric wards and prisons; to facilitate cultural rights and self-determination for Aboriginal Victorians; to promote equality and non-discrimination in education; and to align Australia to international human rights standards.
The Charter also helped develop human rights standards across the state, with two of the most influential cases – Certain Children v Minister for Families and Children & Ors (No 2) and Matsoukatidou v Yarra Ranges Council – clarifying public bodies' legal obligations towards vulnerable Victorians.
Many public authorities made proactive efforts to embed the human rights in their work, with the support of the Commission's education branch. Successes included:
- Corrections Victoria trained staff on how to balance human rights with security and 'good order' needs in the prison context
- The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages increased birth registrations of Koori children and adults through its Strong Identity, Strong Spirit project
- The Department of Health and Human Services' Human Rights in Health project trained staff on ethical decisions in working with vulnerable communities
- East Gippsland Shire Council developed a rights-based approach to dealing with challenging customer service situations
- The Inspector-General for Emergency Management's Human Rights Action Plan aims to ensure decisions are consistent with Charter obligations.
Commissioner Kristen Hilton said: "Victorians can be proud of the effective way our Charter is being used to improve the quality of state government services and to create fairer laws, policies and practices.
"We applaud the Victorian public service for its ongoing efforts to build a rights-respecting culture to better serve all Victorians."
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