National Human Rights Consultation - Materials and Resources


1.  Engaging in the Debate Report

The Human Rights Law Resource Centre, in conjunction with leading Australian law firm Allens Arthur Robinson, has produced a comprehensive report to enable individuals and organisations to participate in the National Human Rights Consultation in an informed and evidence-based way.  The report is not intended to be a position paper or submission, but rather to provide information, evidence and background material.

The report, entitled The National Human Rights Consultation: Engaging in the Debate [PDF] [Word], begins by outlining the arguments for and against a Federal Charter of Rights (or Human Rights Act). The report then addresses the central issues in the debate by discussing three broad questions:

  • Is a Federal Charter necessary?

This includes a discussion as to the current state of human rights, and the legal protection of rights and freedom, in Australia.

  • What would a Federal Charter do?

This includes a discussion as to what rights might be protected, whether those protections should be subject to limitations, whose rights would be protected and who would have to comply with a Federal Charter.

  • How would a Federal Charter work?

This section considers the mechanics of a federal human rights law, and the principal issues that may arise in its drafting and implementation, including whether such a law would be part of the Constitution or an ordinary piece of legislation, the role of the courts, the impact on parliamentary sovereignty and democracy, potential constitutional issues, and what remedies might be available for people whose rights have been breached. The section also looks at the existing models for human rights laws in Victoria, the ACT, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the United States of America.


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2. Case Studies: How a Human Rights Act can promote dignity and address disadvantage

Human rights belong to everyone.  The Human Rights Law Resource Centre has collated a set of case studies, Case Studies on How a Human Rights Act can Promote Dignity and Address Disadvantage, which show that human rights are not just for lawyers, celebrities and criminals; they are an important tool that can help create a more just society where everyone receives a fair go.

The case studies illustrate how human rights laws can be used to encourage common-sense policies and decisions that promote human dignity and addresses disadvantage.


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3. Fact sheets

Human Rights Law Resource Centre, 10 Myths and Misperceptions about a Human Rights Act for Australia.

Federation of Community Legal Centres, 10 Reasons Why we Need a Bill of Rights in Australia and FAQs (November 2007).

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Civil and Political Rights Explained (2007).


3.1  Right-specific Fact Sheets


3.2  Thematic Fact Sheets


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4. Other Resources

4.1 Useful Reports


  • The HRLRC's Brief on National Consultation regarding Legal Recognition & Protection of Human Rightsconsiders:
    • the benefits of human rights protection (including assisting disadvantaged Australians and enhancing our international reputation);
    • the myths and misperceptions raised in opposition to human rights protection (including that a Charter is unnecessary, will be a lawyers' picnic or would undermine legitimate policy decisions);
    • and the conduct of the public consultation.


  • The UK Department for Constitutional Affairs, Review of the Implementation of the UK Human Rights Act (2006), evaluates the first five years of the UK HRA, concluding that it has had a significant and beneficial impact on policy design, public service delivery and consumer satisfaction.


  • The UK Joint Committee on Human Rights Report, A Bill of Rights for the UK? (2007) considers whether and how the protections afforded under the UK HRA could be strengthened, including through the entrenchment of economic, social and environmental rights.



  • A Memorandum of Advice from Brian Walters SC and Alistair Pound of Counsel considers whether and how a national Human Rights Act would impact on religious beliefs and freedoms.  The Advice considers, among other matters:
    • Would a federal charter of rights result in a transfer of political power to the courts?
    • What are the potential cultural impacts of a federal charter of rights?
    • What impact might a federal charter of rights have on freedom of religious speech and expression?
    • What impact might the recognition of a right to life in a federal charter of rights have on issues such as abortion and euthanasia?
    • What impact might the recognition of a right to equality and protection from discrimination in a federal charterof rights have on the ability of religious bodies to discriminate on the basis of religion?


4.2 Speeches




  • Mark Dreyfus QC, Labor Member for Isaacs, Adjournment Speech (page 93) to the House of Representatives on the Charter of Human Rights, 3 September 2008.


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More pages on the National Human Rights Consultation: