Community lawyers call for stronger human rights protections

The Victorian Government should strengthen existing protections under the Human Rights Charter in the spirit of Human Rights Week, says the Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres.

A new Federal government report released on 9 December highlights a number of Australian communities whose human rights are threatened.

The Charter has been facing an uncertain future since the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee Report recommended winding back key aspects of its operation. The majority Coalition committee has been criticised for ignoring the overwhelming community support for the Charter expressed in submissions and evidence given to the inquiry. The Victorian Government is expected to announce its decision on the recommendations shortly.

“While Victoria has relatively good record of human rights protection, we still have a long way to go to ensure vulnerable communities have access to equal treatment,” said Federation Policy Officer Jacqui Bell. “Human Rights Week is an opportunity to celebrate the progress we have made in promoting fairness and equality, but also a chance to reflect on where we still need to do better.”

“It is the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our community who will be affected by any decision to wind back human rights protections under the Victorian Charter,” said Disability Discrimination Legal Service Manager Julie Phillips. “A recent report demonstrates that the quality of life for people with disabilities in Australia is the worst in the developed world with almost half living in or near a state of poverty. This is no time to be winding back human rights protections.”

“The Charter has been an effective tool for improving the lives of many Victorians, and we need to build on these positive developments by making sure people have access to justice for a broader range of human rights,” said Human Rights Law Centre Director of International Human Rights Advocacy Ben Schokman. “Human Rights Week is an appropriate time to recognise the positive impact of the Charter over the last five years, but that existing protections still need to be strengthened so all Victorians have access to the same fundamental human rights.”

Source: Victorian Federation of Community Legal Centres