Achieving the Rights Outcome

Images of various people in black and white, including two people using sign language, a woman in a wheelchair and a may holding a boy above his head, as well as heading 'Achieving the Rights Outcome' and logo of the ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner Download PDF

Contents

Introduction

This guide has been developed to assist residents of the ACT advocate for themselves, and others, using the Territory’s unique human rights framework. The ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to enshrine through legislation certain basic human rights that all citizens could rely on when engaging with ACT Government agencies.

This guide includes real life case studies where human rights has been used to:

  • Ensure Young families have not been evicted from their home;
  • Protect the rights of a married couple of over fifty years was not separated when they transitioned into aged care;
  • Improve the youth justice system for children, young people, parents, carers, victims, staff and the broader community;
  • Ensure those held in closed environments like prison, psychiatric units and aged care are treated with dignity; and
  • Maintain the decision-making rights of people with disability.

About the ACT Human Rights Commission

The ACT Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory agency established by the Human Rights Commission Act 2005. The HRC Act establishes five members of the Commission:

  • The Children & Young People Commissioner
  • The Disability & Community Services Commissioner
  • The Discrimination Commissioner
  • The Health Services Commissioner (who also handles complaints regarding services for older people)
  • The Human Rights Commissioner

The Commission operates from a model of collegiality, and does not have an administrative head.  All three Commissioners have equal seniority and decision making authority within the Commission.

Each of the three Commissioners has statutory responsibilities in accordance with their titles, and the Health Services Commissioner also has responsibility in relation to services for older people.  At this time, the HRC Act does not prescribe any functions for the Community Services Commissioner.

This guide has been prepared by the ACT Human Rights and Discrimination Commissioner.

Why Human Rights?

We all enjoy universal, fundamental human rights and freedoms. The ACT was the first Australian jurisdiction to enact legislation covering civil and political rights. In comparison, other Western democracies such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, most European countries and the United States all have some form of human rights legislation.

These Acts are based on sixty years of international human rights treaty development, beginning in 1948 with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with several Australians playing a pivotal role. Further specific treaties include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as more recent ones covering vulnerable populations such as women, children, people with disabilities and indigenous peoples. The ACT Human Rights Act benefits from decades of human rights jurisprudence. Already the Human Rights Act has improved the actions and decisions of ACT Government and enhanced protections in ACT laws.