HUMAN RIGHTS ACT EXPLAINER
WHAT ARE HUMAN RIGHTS
All Western Australians have human rights. They are universal, meaning they are for everyone, everywhere, all of the time. Human rights legally articulate the values that we hold most dear, like freedom, equality, dignity, and work as a tool that we can use to protect our safety and quality of life. They belong to all of us from birth until death, no matter our race, gender, religion, abilities, political beliefs, sexuality, age or any other characteristic.
They include well known rights such as:
- protection from discrimination
- protection from torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment
- the right to a fair trial
- the right to vote
- freedom of speech, movement and assembly
- protection from arbitrary imprisonment
- the right to an education
- the right to health
- the right to privacy
Protecting our human rights ensures that we are treated fairly and equally with dignity and respect.
WHAT IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ACT?
A Human Rights Act for Western Australia would articulate and protect everyone’s human rights. It would create a comprehensive legislated framework that consolidates our current selective and piecemeal approach to the protection of human rights in WA. Currently many of our basic rights and freedoms are not protected by law in WA. A Human Rights Act for Western Australia would address this by providing legal recognition of the basic rights and freedoms that WA must protect under international law. It would significantly improve the way our parliament, government and public entities like local councils, the police, schools and state government agencies develop laws, policies and make decisions. It would also create pathways that we can all use to take action if our human rights are breached.
Human rights legislation has already been passed in the Australian Capital Territory (2004), Victoria (2006) and Queensland (2019). These Acts provide protection for most civil and political rights and cultural rights, and some protection of economic and social rights. Most of these rights are based on rights protected by international treaties to which Australia is party, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
A Human Rights Act for WA, like the existing human rights legislation in other jurisdictions, would be based on a ‘dialogue model’. The dialogue model seeks to create a culture of human rights awareness within and between the three arms of government (Parliament, Executive and Courts) and places obligations on each arm to protect and promote human rights.
The key objects of a Human Rights Act would be to:
- Protect and promote human rights and help to create a fair, just and equal society for everyone in Western Australia.
- Require parliament and the WA Government and other public authorities to consider how laws, policies and the delivery of services impact on our human rights.
- Provide people whose human rights have been breached with accessible remedies.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A HUMAN RIGHTS ACT?
A Human Rights Act would provide meaningful and tangible benefits to everyone in Western Australia. In particular, a Human Rights Act in WA would benefit us all by establishing a framework that:
- Requires Parliament to consider human rights when passing and amending legislation;
- Requires public entities, such as state government departments, local councils, state schools, the police and all organisations performing a public function in WA to act compatibly with human rights; .
- Enables WA courts and tribunals to interpret legislation consistently with human rights and empowers them to issue declarations for Parliament to consider if they find that a law breaches human rights.
- Provides accessible pathways that individuals can use to make a complaint or legal remedy and seek a solution if their human rights are breached.
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