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Victoria's Human Rights Charter

2015 Review of Victoria's Charter of Human Rights

Michael Brett Young, former CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria, has been appointed to lead the 2015 Review of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. The Terms of Reference are available online and the review will be completed by 1 September 2015.

The LIV provided a submission to the Review. The submission recognises the importance of the Charter in developing a human rights culture in Victoria and highlights a number of areas for improvement. The submission suggests a number of changes that could be made to clarify and simplify the Charter in order to strengthen its ability to protect human rights in Victoria.

The LIV also provided a further supplementary submission to the Charter Review. It focuses on a discrete additional issues relating to the protection of Victorians’ Charter rights under uniform or cooperative statutory schemes.

As part of its advocacy on the Charter Review, the LIV also held an event: Strengthening the Charter: Bringing Human Rights Home on 30 July 2015.

The LIV has developed an online Charter Case Audit database which contains Victorian court and tribunal decisions which have raised issues under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

Key reform proposals for strengthening the Victorian Charter

The LIV and a number of other key human rights, community and legal organisations have identified a number of key recommendations for the 2015 Charter review.

This infographic provides an overview of these key recommendations aimed at clarifying, simplifying and making the Charter more accessible. These changes will assist in embedding a human rights culture in Victoria.

Government response to 2011 Review of Charter

On 14 March 2012, the Government tabled its response to the 2011 Review of the Charter by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC).
View response (pdf)
View media release

2011 Review of Charter

On 14 September 2011, the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC) tabled in parliament its final report on the Review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) (the Charter).

The LIV issued a media release on 14 September expressing disappointment with SARC’s proposals to wind back the Charter and urging the government not to adopt its recommendations.

Mandated under s.44 of the Chater, the review must terms of reference required SARC to consider:

  • whether additional human rights should be included under the Charter, including rights under international conventions that protect economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of women and children and the right to self-determination should be included in the Charter;
  • whether regular auditing of public authorities to assess compliance with human rights should be made mandatory;
  • whether further provision should be made in respect to proceedings that may be brought or remedies that may be awarded in relation to acts or decisions of public authorities made unlawful because of the Charter;
  • the effects of the Charter Act on: the development and drafting of statutory provisions, the consideration of statutory provisions by Parliament; the provision of services, and the performance of other functions, by public authorities; litigation and the roles and functioning of courts and tribunals; the availability to Victorians of accessible, just and timely remedies for infringements of rights;
  • the overall benefits and costs of the Charter Act; and
  • options for reform or improvement of the regime for protecting and upholding rights and responsibilities in Victoria.

View the terms of reference (pdf)
View information about SARC and the review 

Submissions to SARC were due 1 July 2011.  The LIV has made a submission to SARC which calls for the Charter to be retained and strengthened to: better reflect Australia’s obligations under international law; enhance opportunities for public debate about the human rights compatibility of new laws; and streamline the application of the Charter to courts and tribunals.  The LIV's submission was also accompanied by an audit of cases, prepared by the LIV with  assistance from Blake Dawson, in which the Charter has been raised or considered. 

View the LIV's submission to the review

More information about the review is available on the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website.

Overview of the Charter

The Charter came into full effect on 1 January 2008.

The Charter creates procedures to ensure that law-makers and public decision-makers take account of human rights. 

For example:

  • from a law-maker’s perspective, members of parliament must prepare statements of compatibility to accompany any new bills (section 28);
  • from a decision-maker’s perspective, statutory provisions must be interpreted in a way that is compatible with human rights (section 32);
  • from a public authority’s perspective, it is unlawful to act in a  way that is incompatible with a human right or, in making a decision, to fail to give proper consideration to a relevant human right (section 38);
  • from a plaintiff’s perspective, a person may, in the context of an action concerning an unlawful act or decision of a public authority, seek relief or remedy on a ground of unlawfulness under the Charter (section 39).

The types of rights protected under the Charter are predominantly ‘civil’ and ‘political’ rights and include (see sections 8-27):

  • Right to recognition and equality before the law
  • Right to life
  • Right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Right to privacy and reputation
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
  • Freedom of expression
  • Right to take part in public life
  • Cultural rights
  • Property rights
  • Right to liberty and security of person
  • Right to a fair hearing
  • Rights in criminal proceedings

A copy of the Charter is available on the AUSTLII website. The Explanatory Memorandum is also available on the AUSTLII website.

Further information about the Charter, including Guidelines on how to implement the Charter, can be found on the website for the Department of Justice.

Annual reports on the Charter are prepared by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC).

Charter Impact Project

With funding from Victoria Law Foundation, the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) undertook ground-breaking research on how Victoria's legal profession understands and uses the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter Impact Project).

The LIV engaged leading social researcher, Colmar Brunton, to survey Victorian lawyers and carry out in-depth interviews of legal practitioners with experience using the Charter.

The purpose of the Charter Impact Project was to:

  • Assess the extent of knowledge and use of the Charter by legal practitioners (to inform community outreach and education programs);
  • Identify how the Charter is being used, for example, in public authority decision and policy-making and in the resolution of complaints and disputes (to inform policy on the Charter).

The research involved an online survey completed by 414 members of the legal profession followed by 9 face to face interviews with selected members of the profession (including representation of Public Authorities, the Judiciary, and private and community legal centre lawyers). The research was conducted between 15 April and 29 June 2011.

Charter Impact Report

The Charter Impact Report prepared by the LIV summarises the research by Colmar Brunton and makes observations on the research findings.

Download the full report (40 pages) (pdf) 

Colmar Brunton Report

The Colmar Brunton Report provides indepth descriptions and analysis of the research undertaken for the Charter Impact Project.

Download the full report (87 pages) (pdf)

Related Consultations and Reports

The enactment of the Charter followed a consultation that was initiated in 2005. A 2005 Consultation Paper (pdf) and 2006 Final Report (pdf) of the Victorian Human Rights Consultation Committee outlines issues that were relevant to the 2011 review. 

In 2009, the National Human Rights Consultation Committee produced a report with recommendations for national human rights promotion and protection.

View the report.

A report on the first 5 years of the operation of the ACT Human Rights Act 2004 (pdf) contains useful insights for Victoria.

A pilot survey of the legal profession’s experience with the Charter was undertaken by the LIV in 2009.

LIV Submissions

The LIV was a prominent and successful advocate for the Charter.  The LIV also supports the establishment of a national human rights instrument.

In addition to its submission to SARC in June 2011 (see above), the LIV has also made the following submissions:

In the past, the LIV has also made the following submissions:

Useful Links

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