Human Rights Charter helping to create a fairer, more inclusive Victoria

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities continues to make a real, practical difference in the lives of Victorians, according to the fifth Charter report tabled in Parliament on 19 June. Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Acting Commissioner Karen Toohey said that Rights in focus: 2011 report on the operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities highlighted the way the Charter is helping Victorians to realise their rights and to resolve everyday issues that can have a profound effect on their quality of life.

Ms Toohey said that the Charter report clearly shows that its most significant and positive impact is felt by the vulnerable members of our community and that taking a human rights-based approach leads to fairer and more equitable government services and policies.

"We are in a unique position inVictoria, being the only state inAustraliato have a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

"It is clear that government bodies are using the Charter to guide all aspects of government services and decision-making processes – from policy development through to service delivery," Ms Toohey said.

"And this doesn’t just mean better services – it also reduces the risk of policy decisions that do not take individuals’ human rights into proper account, which can lead to unintended consequences for many vulnerable people in our community," Ms Toohey said.

Real life examples of the Charter being used for the benefit of everyday people also feature strongly in the report.

  • The Department of Premier and Cabinet took the Charter into account in the development of policies and programs, including projects for specific communities that address areas of concern, such as health, unemployment and loss of cultural identity. One project included setting up women’s health clinics for Iraqi and Congolese communities in and around Shepparton to convey critical information about reproductive health.
  • VALID, an advocacy group for adults with intellectual disabilities and their families, was able to use the Charter to prevent a group of young people in a rehabilitation facility from being forced to move into an aged-care facility.
  • A 96-year-old woman was given 60 days to vacate her home. During this time she was unable to find alternative accommodation and was at risk of homelessness. Her advocates used the Charter to secure a 30-day extension, enabling her to find suitable accommodation.
  • Inspired by the Charter, the Office of the Child Safety Commission has undertaken a range of projects to ensure that the voices of vulnerable children and young people are heard and that their best interests are reflected in all policy decisions.
  • The Charter was central in a Supreme Court decision that prevented a woman and her two children being homeless after she was initially issued with an eviction notice.

Source: Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission