Skip to content

An Australian Human Rights Act

Human Rights

Last week, our office attended the Australian Human Rights Conference held in Sydney to learn more about a proposed Human Rights Act (HRA) for Australia. Since 2018, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has been working towards a model for a single legislated HRA, to both bring together the existing protections Australians have under a single framework, and to enshrine new rights to protect our future generations from the harmful impacts of such things as climate change.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has completed their inquiry in May, recommending a HRA in line with the proposals made by the HRC, identifying the following key findings:

  1. Australians currently face significant human rights problems in Australia that must be addressed, from our relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the protection of privacy in the digital age and the treatment of minority groups.
  2. The current piecemeal approach of protections enshrined across numerous pieces of legislation is inadequate.
  3. The previous 2010 Australian Human Rights framework, while laudable, has demonstrated that non-legislative approaches to building a culture of respect for human rights do not last.
  4. As part of a proposed human rights act, there should be an obligation that Parliament would need to expressly consider human rights when making laws, and Commonwealth public authorities, including government departments, agencies and the Australian Federal Police, would need to consider rights when making decisions and act compatibly with rights
  5. Australians should be better aware of their rights, with funding for human rights education in primary and secondary schools.

The Coalition has opposed a Human Rights Act, with coalition committee members issuing a dissenting report.

While unlikely to be legislated in this term of government, the HRC is encouraging the Albanese Government to make a Human Rights Act a committment for the next election.