Section 8 of the Human Rights Act 2004 says that:
Note: Under the Act, all rights may be subject to reasonable limits (section 28). The nature of the right is relevant when considering what is reasonable.
This factsheet is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.
Section 8 of the Act protects three different but related rights.
The first is the right to recognition as a person before the law. This is an absolute right which, under international law, cannot be limited under any circumstances.
The essence of this right is equality of legal capacity, for example the capacity to enter into contracts or access Government services. In some countries, such capacity is denied to certain groups (such as women or particular ethnic groups).
The second right in section 8 of the Act is the right to enjoy other human rights without ‘distinction or discrimination of any kind’. Everyone has the same rights and deserves the same level of respect. This means that laws, policies and programs should not be discriminatory and also that public authorities should not apply or enforce laws, policies and programs in a discriminatory way.
The section includes some examples of discrimination. These include, discrimination because of race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.
Section 8 of the Act also provides that everyone is entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination. This right refers to the enforcement and administration of the law.
In this case, Parks Victoria wanted to advertise for and employ Indigenous people to care for Wurundjeri country. The Tribunal found that the purpose of the activity was to provide employment opportunities to Indigenous people, to increase the number of Indigenous people employed by Parks Victoria, to provide opportunities for connection and care for the Wurundjeri country by its traditional owners and also for the maintenance of the culture associated with the country. The Tribunal was satisfied that the measure was proportionate because at the time the application was made only 7.6 per cent of Parks Victoria’s workforce was Indigenous. This measure of limiting the employment opportunity to Aboriginal people was found to be a reasonable limitation on the right to equality of other groups.
The actions of public authorities can both promote and limit rights. Section 8 could be engaged by activities that: