A Human Rights Act would be a force for good in protecting the rights of all Queenslanders and would deliver significant benefits, the Human Rights Law Centre has told the Queensland Parliament’s Human Rights Inquiry.
Human Rights Law Centre’s director of advocacy and research, Emily Howie, said it’s time for Queensland to enshrine the values of freedom, equality, respect and dignity in law.
“We know from experience that when human rights are not protected in law, they are always in danger of being taken away. This is a particularly serious concern for people on the margins – people experiencing homelessness or mental illness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with disabilities and more,” said Ms Howie.
Human Rights Acts introduced in Victoria and the ACT in the last decade or so have been proven to deliver significant benefits to people living in those places.
“It’s great to see how Human Rights Acts have helped to address disadvantage and improved law making and public service delivery. The major impact of these laws was not felt in the courts, but seen in the development of a broader rights-respecting culture in government and the wider community,” said Ms Howie.
Ms Howie said that Queensland should seize the opportunity not just to introduce a human rights law, but also to improve upon existing models, in particular ensuring that an Act contains a free-standing cause of action to allow people to access justice for the violations.
“A Human Rights Act would clearly set out what Queenslanders’ human rights are, guarantee a process for how the Queensland’s government will respect those rights and provide avenues to seek justice when rights have been violated. Without access to justice for violations, the government is sending mixed messages about the importance it places on its people’s human rights,” said Ms Howie.
The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission can be found here.