International Human Rights Day 2014

Dr Helen Watchirs, the ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner,celebrated International Human Rights Day 2014 with a forum examining the next decade of human rights protection in the ACT.

The ACT became the first jurisdiction to enact a legislated bill of rights ten years ago.

The Commissioner chaired a forum of five prominent experts who discussed the future of human rights protection, including the possible inclusion of the right to housing.

‘The Forum was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on a decade of human rights protection, and think about where we might go next,’ said Dr Watchirs.

The speakers included Leilani Farha, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, who participated via video link from Canada.

‘Having Ms Farha’s input provided us all with the opportunity to consider what is possible in terms of human rights protection, particularly how other jurisdictions have enshrined the right to housing.’

Other speakers included:

  • Beth Goldblatt, Associate Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney, an expert in economic, social and cultural rights like the rights to education, health and housing, with experience in South Africa.
  • Travis Gilbert, Executive Officer, ACT Shelter.
  • Peter Garrisson, Solicitor-General for the ACT; and
  • Lucy Sargeson, Principal Legal Officer in Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Office of International Law. The Federal Parliament began in 2012 to evaluate new legislation against International
  • human rights requirements, including economic, social and cultural rights.

The Forum also marked the official opening of a display at the Canberra Museum and Gallery on the ACT’s decade of human rights.

‘I encourage everyone to go and see the Display, which captures some of the iconic images and items that were developed in the consultation, creation and enactment of the ACT Human Rights Act. As the first jurisdiction in Australia to enact such a law, this is a significant milestone.’

Finally, the Commissioner also released an Independent Report assessing the impact and potential changes to improve the Human Rights Act.

‘I will use feedback from the forum, coupled with other consultation over the coming months to further inform my view about the future of the Human Rights Act, which I plan to put to the ACT Government next year.’

Picture of forum, featuring image on screen of International Expert
International Human Rights Day Forum 2014