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Call for Charter reform

Briefs

Cite as: August 2015 89 (8) LIJ, p.13

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities should be expanded and strengthened to include damages for breaches, according to the LIV. 

In its June submission to the state government’s review of the Charter, the LIV makes 36 recommendations.

LIV president Katie Miller said that over the eight years of its operation the Charter has achieved a great deal in developing a human rights culture in Victoria, but there was more to accomplish.

“We believe it is now timely to improve the Charter and to reduce the complexity of using it to resolve disputes between citizens and the state government,” Ms Miller said.

The LIV’s recommendations for reform include:

  • giving VCAT the power to provide appropriate relief or remedy for a breach of the Charter, including damages;
  • clarifying that a breach of the Charter is grounds for judicial review in the Supreme Court;
  • expanding avenues for investigation and resolution of human rights complaints to clarify the Ombudsman’s role and to allow the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to provide dispute resolution services and investigate serious human rights breaches;
  • strengthening the role of the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee;
  • providing sufficient resources to ensure the effective implementation of the Charter;
  • clarifying the application of the Charter to entities performing outsourced functions;
  • clarifying the role of courts and tribunals as public authorities; and
  • supporting parties to raise the Charter in legal proceedings.
  • The LIV released a database of Charter decisions earlier this year, which covered 336 decisions between September 2006 and December 2014, accessed via the website.

    Briefly

    Family Court delays

    The Law Council of Australia has called on the federal government to make a clear public commitment to immediately replace retiring judges in the Family and Federal Circuit Courts, with recent replacement delays causing unacceptable hold-ups in justice for at-risk children and families.

    AGS consolidation

    The Australian government completed the consolidation of the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) into the Attorney-General’s Department on 1 July.

    Amalgamated AAT

    The Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Migration Review Tribunal and Refugee Review Tribunal amalgamated into a single body, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on 1 July.

    Time limits removed from abuse claims

    The Victorian government has removed time limitations that apply to civil claims founded upon child abuse with a new law that came into effect in July. This law removes the limitation period for all relevant child abuse civil claims regardless of the time or context of the alleged abuse.

    New processes for criminal trials

    Reforms introduced in July simplify the directions the trial judge gives to the jury in a criminal trial to assist the jury in determining whether an accused is guilty or not guilty.

    Inaugural Francine V McNiff Chair in Criminology

    The University of Melbourne has established the Francine V McNiff Chair in Criminology from part of a $4 million donation by former staff member and magistrate, Francine McNiff. Professor Alison Young has been appointed in the role. Ms McNiff died in April. She was the first female judicial officer in Victoria. She retired from her position as a Children’s Court magistrate in 1987.

    Colin Biggers & Paisley incorporated

    After more than 100 years of trading as a partnership, east coast law firm Colin Biggers & Paisley has moved to an incorporated model and now trades as Colin Biggers & Paisley Pty Ltd in the three states where it is based – New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

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