Review recommends strengthening Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights

Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights would be made more effective, practical and accessible by adopting a range of recommendations arising from a review of the Charter’s first eight years of operation.

The Victorian Attorney-General, Martin Pakula, today tabled in Parliament the report by Michael Brett Young, former CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria, who was appointed to conduct the review.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, welcomed the report and urged the Government to adopt the key recommendations.

“Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights has been a force for good in protecting Victorians’ rights. This report outlines sensible and practical steps that the Government should take to improve the Charter’s effectiveness and develop a human rights culture in Victoria. We welcome key recommendations to make the Charter easier and simpler to understand and to use,” said Mr de Kretser.

The report recommends improvements in the way Victorians can protect their human rights in the courts.

“As the review recognises, providing for rights without remedies sends mixed messages about the importance of human rights. Currently, the Charter can only be enforced in a complicated way, typically through legal action in the Supreme Court. The review recommends sensible changes to make it simpler and easier to protect human rights by allowing people to take action in the more accessible and low-cost jurisdiction of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal,” said Mr de Kretser.

Mr de Kretser also welcomed the complementary recommendation to give the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission the power to resolve human rights disputes through mediation which will avoid the need to go to court in many cases.

However, Mr de Kretser said the Government needed to acknowledge the need for compensation for victims of human rights abuses.

“People whose human rights have been breached should be entitled to compensation in appropriate cases. It’s disappointing that the review did not recommend that compensation be introduced as an available remedy at this stage,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Attorney General said the review is the first step in improving the Human Rights Charter, ensuring its ongoing effectiveness in protecting the fundamental rights of Victorians.

The Human Rights Law Centre is examining the 52 recommendations closely and will release a more detailed response in coming weeks. The HRLC's submission made during the review process can be found here.

Related: Community and legal groups say it’s time to strengthen Victoria’s Human Rights Charter