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National Human Rights Consultation: Getting involved Ben Schokman Human Rights Law Resource Centre Ltd + 61 3 8636 4451

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Presentation on theme: "National Human Rights Consultation: Getting involved Ben Schokman Human Rights Law Resource Centre Ltd + 61 3 8636 4451"— Presentation transcript:

1 National Human Rights Consultation: Getting involved Ben Schokman Human Rights Law Resource Centre Ltd

2 Outline 1. Background to the National Consultation 2. A significant opportunity 3. How to write a submission for your organisation 4. Encouraging and facilitating others to make submissions 5. Resources 6. Contacts

3 The National Consultation Announced by the Commonwealth Attorney-General on 10 December 2008 – the 60th anniversary of the UDHR Appointment of an independent Consultation Committee: Father Frank Brennan (Chair) Mick Palmer Mary Kostakidis Tammy Williams Submissions to the Consultation are due by 29 May 2009 Committee to report to Government by 31 August 2009

4 A Significant Opportunity Five reasons why you should participate: 1. CLCs have extremely relevant – and important – expertise and experience 2. Australia has very limited constitutional and legislative protection of human rights 3. Human rights improve public services and empower individuals 4. Complement and enhance the operation of the Victorian Charter 5. This is a once in a generation opportunity!

5 Consultation Questions 1.Which human rights (including corresponding responsibilities) should be protected and promoted? 2.Are these human rights currently sufficiently protected and promoted? 3.How could Australia better protect and promote human rights?

6 Making submissions It’s a numbers game… every submission counts, no matter how large or small You and your organisation can (or should!): 1. Write a submission on behalf of your organisation 2. Encourage other organisations and individuals to make a submission 3. Facilitate others to make a submission 4. Write a submission yourself! The National Consultation also presents a significant opportunity for education and awareness raising – for the community and advocates as well

7 Key features of a federal Human Rights Act Model to be proposed by the HRLRC ‘Dialogue model’ that retains Parliamentary sovereignty Parliament  Scrutiny of new legislation ‘Public authorities’  Widely defined  Obligations to act compatibility with human rights and give proper consideration in decision making  Private sector opt-in clause Courts  Statutory interpretation – human rights jurisprudence  Declarations of Inconsistent Interpretation

8 Key features of a federal Human Rights Act Model to be proposed by the HRLRC (cont) Protects ALL rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural Separate cause of action to ensure effective remedies Role of the Australian Human Rights Commission – enhanced monitoring, reporting and education Sufficient resourcing of NGO sector Will bind federal government and agencies, with option for states and territories to opt-in

9 Writing your own organisation’s submission Some questions to consider: What expertise and experience do we have? What value can our organisation add? What resources do we have? Options: Endorse the Federation’s or the HRLRC’s submission Copy and modify another submission to suit your organisation Write your own submission – can be large or small (1 page will do!)

10 Writing your own organisation’s submission What should we include in our submission? Focus on areas and rights that you know the most about Provide examples of experiences of your organisation:  Good news stories – where human rights protection has helped  ‘Unfair’ outcomes - where better human rights protection might have been useful Consideration of technical questions Address some of the ‘myths and misperceptions’

11 Small groups discussion 1. Have you had any success stories at your CLC using the Victoria Charter to advocate for your clients? 2. Have you had any situations of ‘unfair’ treatment where you think that better human rights protection might have been useful? 3. What are your preliminary views about what sort of submission your CLC might be able to make?

12 Myths and misperceptions about a Human Rights Act Will create a flood of litigation and a lawyers’ picnic Transfers power from Parliament to unelected judges Democracy provides adequate protection of rights Will ‘promote bureaucracy’ and inefficiency Will be used by villains and terrorists to exploit loopholes It is unnecessary It won’t do anything

13 Values and benefits of enhanced legislative protection Institutionalising a human rights framework leads to improved public service delivery and outcomes The language and ideas of rights can be used to secure positive changes not only to individual circumstances, but also to policies and procedures at a systemic level Human rights are universally acknowledged and agreed standards that can be used as benchmarks for assessing the fairness of laws, policies and practices Protect fundamental human rights, promote human dignity and address disadvantage

14 Encouraging and facilitating others CLCs are in an ideal position to facilitate people to tell their personal experiences Think about whether your organisation could: 1. Run grass roots consultations 2. Attend the Consultation Committee’s forums – or encourage individuals to do so 3. Offer assistance to individuals (and other organisations) 4. Distribute resources, such as fact sheets, template submissions, etc

15 1.Run grass roots consultations Some ideas: Small workshops  eg HPLC Look at your CLC’s calendar of events Set up a stall at community events / festivals  eg Kingsford Legal Centre collected 100 submissions at Yabun Festival! Client questionnaire – use your existing client intake procedure or leave the questionnaire at reception Think creatively!

16 2.Consultation Committee’s community forums In Victoria, the Committee will visit Dandenong, Melbourne, Mildura, Wodonga, Geelong & Bendigo Dates available at 3.Assist individuals and other organisations Offer a contact point within your organisation who can provide assistance Run a workshop – like this one!

17 4.Distribute Resources HRLRC’s ‘Submission Kit’ One-page overview of the Consultation Thematic fact sheets Right-specific fact sheets Template submissions More detailed resources “Engaging in the Debate” Australian Human Rights Commission’s toolkit

18 Small groups discussion What sort of ideas are you starting to develop about what activities your CLC could undertake – or get involved in?

19 Further Resources National Human Rights Consultation website: Human Rights Law Resource Centre: Get Up: Amnesty: Australian Human Rights Group:

20 Contacts Federation of CLCs Chris Atmore ph: (03) Human Rights Law Resource Centre Ben Schokman ph: (03)


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