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The Commission’s model for a Human Rights Act for Australia

Rights and Freedoms

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s model for a Human Rights Act for Australia

Macquarie University Law School and MULS 

Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher AM FAAL FRSA FACLM(Hon) FRSN 

[Check against delivery


Let me begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, on the Wattamattagal Campus of Macquarie University, and pay my respect to Elders, past, present and emerging, and also to acknowledge any Indigenous guests attending today.  

I am sorry that as a nation we did not accept the invitation offered in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. There is much healing needed and we must open our ears and listen. 

I speak at a critical time for the protection of human rights in Australia.  

Next year, we will have a generational opportunity to secure a federal Human Rights Act and begin the task of modernising our out of date legal and policy framework for the protection of human rights. 

For the past four years, the Commission has been undertaking a project called Free and Equal, in which we have asked ‘what would make an effective system for the protection of human rights in Australia?” Our proposal for a model Human Rights Act is a major outcome of that conversation.    

The impetus for protecting human rights 

To set the scene for my topic this evening, I want to take you back, to 1945 – the final year of the Second World War.[1] The nations comprising the Allies against Germany and Japan, focused on how to protect human rights in the wake of the horrors experienced during that war. On 26 June, the month following the surrender of Germany, the Charter of the United Nations was signed in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization and came into force on 24 October (now known as United Nations Day), the month after Japan surrendered in the Pacific. Three years before, in the midst of the war in 1942, the Allies had subscribed to the United Nations Declaration. The aim was to establish an international organisation designed to end war and to promote peace, justice and better living for all mankind.[2]Australia was one of the original signatories.[3]

And, on 10 December 1948, the body established as the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[4] An Australian, Dr HV Evatt, or ‘Doc Evatt’ as he was known, was in the Chair of the General Assembly at that landmark moment. This year is its 75th anniversary. 

One of the UN’s first goals was to provide a roadmap to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere.[5] In December 1946, it asked the UN Commission on Human Rights to frame an ‘international bill of human rights’.[6] The first step was the UDHR. 

What was distinctive about this Declaration was its move away from an international law that was about the rights of states among themselves, to an international law of human rights, which conferred rights on individual people. That great document represented the coming together of different intellectual, philosophical and political traditions into a set of common commitments for all humankind. The Chair of the Drafting Committee was the indomitable Eleanor Roosevelt, and she is recognised as the driving force for its adoption. 

That moment, in 1948, was celebrated and marked across Australia. The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG, whose name will mark the new Law School building – remembers clearly that the UDHR was given to every schoolchild in Australia, on flimsy aerogramme paper. He and Doc Evatt were both alumni of Fort St Boys’ High School in Sydney.[7]

The UDHR provided the foundation stone for a pair of binding conventions in the 1960s – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[8] and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights[9] – and the combination of rights guaranteed in these two covenants ‘represent the most authoritative universal minimum standard of present international human rights law’.[10] Together with the UDHR, these three instruments are known as the ‘International Bill of Rights’.  

Australia was a founding signatory to each of these instruments and, as a nation, we stepped forward in embracing the commitments of these great documents. Australia has signed and ratified each of the key international treaties since then – and it has not been a party-political exercise. Both sides in our system of Westminster government – and in equal measure – have signed and ratified them, undertaking obligations to the world.[11]

However, little has been done to enact the rights and freedoms protected by these instruments into Australian law – despite the aspirations perhaps encouraged in the schoolchildren of Michael Kirby’s young years. This means that the rights and freedoms enshrined in these international human rights instruments are not directly enforceable in Australia. Our promises to the world, while genuine, are not backed up fully in practice, and the willingness to do so has also fluctuated greatly over the intervening decades.   

The absence of a Human Rights Act does not mean that we do not have a strong tradition of rights and freedoms — we do — and they go back directly to the Magna Carta of 1215, but it does mean that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the international human rights instruments are not directly enforceable in Australia. This means that rights and freedoms can be conveniently ‘distanced’, where the moment or politics pushes the issue.  

The idea of rights is in ‘the vibe’, but it is not in law – as we saw only too well during our COVID years. 

From the perspective of the jurisdiction of the Australian Human Rights Commission, the absence of implementation of the treaty commitments is also still unfinished legal architecture. When we were put on a permanent foundation in 1986, the Commission was designed in tandem with an accompanying Australian Bill of Rights Act. The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives, but did not survive the Senate. More recently, the idea was the principal recommendation of the National Human Rights Consultation led by Fr Frank Brennan AO SJ, over a decade ago, with its report in 2009.[12] It also did not progress – then under a Labor government, which may have been more inclined to consider it. 

Institutionally, then, we are like a doughnut – with a hole in the middle. 

Now, the landscape has shifted. There is already considerable momentum in the direction of stronger human rights protections in Australia in the form of dedicated legislative embodiment as Human Rights Acts in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT. There is considerable agitation and advocacy in other State and Territory jurisdictions towards this objective too. 

The pandemic brought a renewed national focus, indeed, global focus, on the importance of centralising considering rights and freedoms during times of crisis – a greater ‘rights consciousness’. Our challenge now is to ensure that human rights remain central to government decision making and policy design on an ongoing basis – with an embedded ‘rights-mindedness’, as I have called it, and a deeper understanding of our rights in general and about human rights in particular – and especially about what rights are protected, or not, under Australian law. 

In part, this is about the public understanding of rights. It is also about the legal architecture for protecting rights and freedoms in Australia and the accountability of governments and public authorities for their decisions.[13]  

The Commission’s Free and Equal work 

In December 2018, I threw out a ‘sky anchor’, as I called it, on International Human Rights Day, in announcing Free and Equal. Through the national conversation we have led over the following three plus years, we sought to reimagine Australia’s framework of protections of human rights and freedoms.  

The title of our national conversation was drawn directly from the first sentence of the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.  

Through 2019 to 2021, we released an Issues Paper;[14] three Discussion Papers, ran a submissions process;[15] we held a spectacular national conference on human rights and associated technical workshops,[16] featuring the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Michelle Bachelet; and we conducted a series of roundtables, technical workshops and stakeholder consultations.[17] It has been an extensive, consultative process. 

The project’s final outputs include two position papers on key reform priorities, and a final report – to be completed this year to mark the 75th anniversary of the UDHR.  

The first Position Paper was released in December 2021: Free & Equal: A reform agenda for federal discrimination laws. In this, we set out a reform agenda to modernise our federal discrimination laws, including by remedying deficiencies in the current laws, by placing a greater focus on prevention of discrimination and by introducing co-regulatory approaches that will enable governments and businesses in particular to be better equipped to prevent and deal with discrimination. 

But addressing discrimination alone is not enough to ensure that people’s human rights are protected. 

And so we launched our second Position Paper: A Human Rights Act for Australia, launched on 9 March this year. It is designed to complement protections against discrimination and deal proactively with issues that discrimination laws cannot address. It presents our case, as the national human rights institution, for the introduction of a federal Human Rights Act in Australia, and an outline of our proposed model and associated reforms. 

It seeks to complete the central, missing piece of our domestic legislative framework for the promotion and protection of human rights in Australia – by bringing rights home.  

By enacting a Human Rights Act in Australia we will complete the intended design of the Australian Human Rights Commission itself – the ‘hole in the doughnut’ of our institutional legislative architecture.  

Just after we launched our paper, the Attorney-General referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR) an inquiry into a Human Rights Framework for Australia, with express reference to our proposal for a federal Human Rights Act.[18] The PJCHR will report in March 2024. 

Since June this year, we have made two submissions to that inquiry. The first submission provided an overview of the key findings of the Free and Equal project to date and then set out our vision for a new national human rights framework, featuring a national Human Rights Act at its centre.[19] Our second submission, which has yet to be loaded on the PJCHR website (as at Thursday 20 July), complemented this submission, with illustrations of how a Human Rights Act might make a difference, drawing from examples of HRA jurisdictions, and where the absence of a Human Rights Act exposes weaknesses in our existing human rights protections. 

Our work will finish in a final report, which we will complete before the end of the year. 

Our proposal for a new Human Rights Framework for Australia sets out 3 supporting foundations and 5 key pillars. 

The 3 foundations for a new framework, necessary to support its effectiveness are: 

  • human rights education 
  • a sustainable Australian Human Rights Commission 
  • a vibrant civil society to protect human rights. 

The five pillars: 

  1. Comprehensive and effective protection of human rights in legislation through the introduction of a national Human Rights Act. 
  2. Federal discrimination laws to be modernised to ensure their effectiveness and to shift the focus from a reactive model that responds to discriminatory treatment to a proactive model that seeks to prevent discriminatory treatment in the first place. 
  3. The role of Parliament in protecting human rights is strengthened, through reform to the processes for parliamentary scrutiny and the introduction of new oversight mechanisms for Australia’s human rights obligations. 
  4. A national human rights indicator index is introduced to independently measure progress on human rights over time. 
  5. An annual statement to Parliament on human rights priorities is made by the Government. 

Each of these elements has a role to play in an integrated human rights framework. 

Why do we need this? 

There is currently an implementation gap between the human rights standards that Australia has agreed to internationally, and the actual protections in our laws, policies and processes of government. 

Our Constitution protects some rights through limitations on the power to pass legislation, but does not confer rights on individuals; the common law ‘principle of legality’ helps in interpreting legislation in a way that is consistent with fundamental rights – to a point; and the parliamentary scrutiny of legislation plays an important role, but, like the Commission itself, it is hampered by the fact that its legislative reference point does not sit in domestic law.   

The existing mechanisms are insufficient and do not provide the human rights protections that all people in Australia are entitled to. 

Without comprehensive legal protection, education and other measures to promote an understanding of human rights, and the processes for monitoring compliance with human rights, Australia is not fully meeting its obligations to ensure that the human rights of all Australians are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Our experience with Royal Commissions into Robodebt, and the abuses experienced by persons with disability and in aged care, have exposed egregious human rights breaches, and show how our existing systems are just not adequate. 

The experience during COVID-19 also reinforced the need for greater protection of human rights and more finely tuned and proportionate considerations upfront in the policy making process. 

The need for better human rights protections in Australia can be summarised by one simple proposition: we should have proper protection of human rights at the national level because everybody’s human rights matter, all of the time. 

A primary benefit of a National Human Rights Framework is that it will foster a culture of respect for human rights throughout the whole of government and across the country. It would likely contribute to a better understanding and awareness of Australia’s human rights obligations, increasing acceptance of them, and provide greater prominence to human rights through the demonstration of political will by the Government and Parliament. It would provide the foundation for, and enhance, ‘rights-mindedness’ in policy, law and decision making. 

Parliamentarians and public officials should be required to consider the human rights impact of their actions. And they should be required to favour options that positively protect human rights, and justify that their chosen actions cause the least possible harm to people’s rights.  

To achieve this, we need a Human Rights Act.  

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been handling human rights complaints since 1981, through the lens of the international treaties. We seek to resolve complaints about breaches of human rights through conciliation. This is distinct from our jurisdiction to conciliate unlawful discrimination complaints. However, unlike that pathway, people who complain that their human rights have been breached cannot obtain enforceable remedies through the courts. This seriously limits the effectiveness of conciliation – and the willingness of public authorities to engage.  

A Human Rights Act, by contrast, includes the possibility of court proceedings – without it, you don’t get the accountability leverage you need for improving decision making. But litigation is not the point. It is the positive duty on public authorities to get it right in the first place – by developing policies and framing decisions through the lens of human rights.  

Failures to protect human rights can affect all kinds of people, and any lack of respect for human rights degrades society at large. And those most harmed by human rights breaches are regularly the most vulnerable among us. Just look at Robodebt, the punitive ParentsNext scheme, and the experiences of people with disability exposed in the Disability Royal Commission. 

A Human Rights Act would build on the experience of complaint handling of 40+ years and address the weaknesses of the current scheme. By providing a pathway to enforceable remedies, a Human Rights Act would substantially improve access to justice and accountability for government decision making. It would provide a greater incentive to think about human rights early, when decisions are made, and before they become complaints. It would be an evolution, not a revolution in our ability to handle and respond to complaints. 

The Commission’s Position Paper offers a clear and concrete set of proposals to implement a Human Rights Act federally. It is tailored to the unique legal framework at the federal level. Our model retains and emphasises the supremacy of the Parliament and is respectful of our Constitutional constraints and federal structure.  

Our model is built on the bookends of responsibility and accountability. It includes: 

  • a positive duty on public authorities – to act compatibly with human rights and consider human rights when making decisions, as exists in the state and territory Human Rights Acts, but also expanded duties to ensure the effective participation of indigenous peoples, persons with disability and children, and to ensure equal access to justice 
  • enhanced parliamentary scrutiny 
  • a comprehensive implementation of human rights, across the ICCPR and ICESCR 
  • interpretive provisions that align the understanding of human rights to the international jurisprudence, and 
  • the existence of remedial pathways, at the Commission, in administrative law and the courts. 

The beauty of a Human Rights Act, and other measures that frontload what I call ‘rights-mindedness’, is that they are expressed in the positive. They are embedded in decision making and ahead of any dispute, and they provide a way of resolving intersections between rights through a proportionality framework. 

A Human Rights Act names rights; it provides an obligation to consider them and a process by which to do it – together supporting a cultural shift towards rights-mindedness, becoming part of the national psyche, not just an afterthought. 

We look forward to the PJCHR Inquiry into an Australian Human Rights Framework to explore the issues raised by the Commission: for discrimination law reform, for the introduction of a national Human Rights Act, and for the introduction of other reforms that will assist in measuring our human rights performance and holding Government to account for its human rights performance. 

The Commission has recommended that the PJCHR itself recommend the adoption of a national Human Rights Act, and that it propose that a Draft Exposure Bill be released for comment based on the Commission’s model. 

So these suggestions around the scope of our model can be captured in the forward momentum of discussion around an Exposure Draft Human Rights Bill – the top of the ‘wish list’ for the ‘implementation department’.  

How does our model Human Rights Act compare to others? 

Our model is specifically tailored to the constitutional challenges in Australia. Notably, however, it goes further than the state and territory models in important respects.  

Cause of action 

In our view, a direct cause of action is an essential plank of the Human Rights Act – not a ‘piggy back’ claim, but a direct claim.  

In early 2019 I had the opportunity to speak with Lady Hale, then Chief Justice of the UK Supreme Court, about her experiences with the UK’s Human Rights Act over 20 years. She considered the existence of a cause of action one of the essential pillars of the effectiveness of the UK Act. 

A direct cause of action has been adopted in the UK, ACT, New Zealand and Canada. The ACT Human Rights Act’s cause of action is modelled on the UK provision.[20]

Fears about opening ‘floodgates’ to litigation through a direct cause of action have proved unwarranted in other jurisdictions: 

A direct cause of action was introduced in the Australian Capital Territory in 2009. In that year, the number of cases that mentioned the Human Rights Act increased markedly, but the proportion of cases involving human rights issues has since reduced to pre-2009 levels.[21] In its first ten years of operation (up to 2014), the ACT Human Rights Act was mentioned in approximately 50 cases in ACT tribunals (6.6% of published decisions), 164 cases in the ACT Supreme Court (9.2% of 1846 published decisions) and in 29 cases in the ACT Court of Appeal (7.6% of 371 published decisions).[22]

In the UK, figures show that human rights legal actions peaked at 714 in 2002, shortly after the passage of the Human Rights Act, but had fallen to only 327 cases in 2009.[23] 

Additionally, an accessible complaints process (utilising alternative dispute resolution) would reduce the impact of a Human Rights Act on the judicial system. Litigation need not be the only port of call for people who wish to make a complaint alleging a breach of human rights. Rather, it is a necessary last resort when other avenues have failed. 


Monetary damages are currently available for breaches of rights protected by federal discrimination laws, including breaches by public authorities.[24] Damages are also available in the UK,[25] New Zealand[26] and Canada.[27] The Human Rights Acts in the ACT, Victoria and Queensland do not permit the recovery of damages where a breach of human rights has been found.[28] The bottom line is that Australian state and territory jurisdictions are outliers for not making damages available where breaches have occurred. 

The reason for excluding access to monetary damages in the states and territories was supposedly to avoid litigation and costs for government. But jurisdictions with a direct cause of action and monetary damages available have not seen ‘floodgates’ of litigation. Additionally, procedural remedies will not always be effective in remedying every kind of breach. When it is not appropriate to have a decision remade – a traditional administrative law remedy – but a person has suffered loss or damages, courts should be able to provide a remedy. Otherwise, individual will be denied justice. The remedies provision should ensure that monetary damages are an available option to the courts where it is the correct remedy in the circumstances – as is the case in relation to unlawful discrimination. 

And if we are speaking of costs to government, just look at the costs of royal commissions. It has been estimated, for example, that the Royal Commission into Aged Care will cost the Australian Government $104 million over four years;[29] and the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse and Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability will cost $527 million.[30]

Failing to provide sufficient remedies may also mean that Australia is breaching its international human rights obligations – including Article 2(3) of the ICCPR. Free & Equal submitters and consultees were strongly against restricting available remedies through the Human Rights Act.[31]

The right to claim monetary damages for a breach of human rights would send an important message to public authorities, people in Australia and the international community: Australia takes breaches of human rights by, or on behalf of its government, seriously. 

A Human Rights Act could also attract a range of administrative law remedies, including setting aside the decision and referring the decision back to the decision maker for further consideration.[32] 

Conciliation first 

The Human Rights Act should still require a person to make a human rights complaint to the Commission, first. The Commission can already conciliate complaints about breaches of human rights, although they are currently non-justiciable. The Commission’s existing processes could be easily adapted to conciliate human rights complaints with the foundation of unlawfulness – like our existing jurisdiction in relation to unlawful discrimination, under the four federal Discrimination Acts. Our experience here reflects the potential of alternative dispute resolution to resolve disputes between complainants and public authorities in a quick, accessible, cost-efficient and effective manner.[33]   

The Queensland complaints pathway is modelled on our AHRCA jurisdiction. But it is still limited: the cause of action is a piggy-back one, and no damages are available.  

With the implementation of a Human Rights Act, this complaints jurisdiction should be removed and replaced with a Human Rights Act jurisdiction. Complainants could proceed to court if conciliation fails (or is inappropriate), as is the case with unlawful discrimination complaints.[34]

The new human rights jurisdiction based on a Human Rights Act would be broader than the Commission’s existing human rights jurisdiction. For example, the Commission cannot currently accept complaints under ICESCR (although ICESCR is referred to when appropriate by the Commission in the exercise of its other functions). The Commission has long advocated for ICESCR to be given the same status in the AHRC Act as the other core human rights treaties.[35] This is a necessary reform to ensure that the full suite of human rights protections formally falls under the Commission’s remit, and it should be actioned alongside the implementation of the Human Rights Act. 


The reality is that our legal framework for protecting human rights in Australia, and for the prevention of discrimination, has changed very little in a generation.  

The introduction of a positive duty for some grounds under the Sex Discrimination Act, but not others, and not for other discrimination acts, is a notable exception to this inertia. 

Very little of the Human Rights Framework that was introduced as a response to the Brennan national human rights consultation in 2009 has endured.  

And we are left with a passive system of rights protection:  

  • where the protection against discrimination relies on individual complainants bringing actions when they have experienced harm, instead of proactive measures focused on prevention and building a culture of respect 
  • where the protection against human rights violations by the federal government – through the Commission’s human rights jurisdiction – is mostly without consequence  
  • where there is a lack of transparency about how government addresses known human rights concerns – such as the issues raised by treaty body committees and through individual communication processes 
  • where there is an absence of benchmarks and targets against which to regularly hold government to account for progress in protecting human rights 
  • and where there is a serious absence of measures to educate the community about human rights, or to ensure that public servants see the protection of the rights of people in Australia as their core business. 

This has to change. Not another Robodebt Royal Commission! 

Government is here to improve the lives of everyone in Australia. The impact of government decision-making on the wellbeing of the community that they serve should be top of mind, all of the time. 

And our conversation about human rights should be a positive, ambitiously-focused agenda about what government should be doing to ensure that we all have the opportunity to thrive and develop, free from discrimination and with our full human dignity respected and protected. 

In considering why we need a Human Rights Act for the protection of rights and freedoms in Australia, I think of future generations. I think of my grandchildren. I will finish with a reflection with them in mind. 

A number of years ago, my eldest grandson, then aged seven, spotted the Magna Carta on the wall in my study — a lovely facsimile produced by the Rule of Law Institute in 2015 to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of that landmark document. He said, rather impressed, ‘Grandma, you have the Magna Carta on your wall!’. How did he know about it? Through ‘Horrible Histories’ on television, of course. It was a story of King John being nasty — exceeding power without accountability to parliament. But how does this lead to a conversation about rights, in Australia today? It is hardly the UDHR that young Michael Kirby took home.  

The Magna Carta is not what you might describe as a highly accessible document, in the medieval Latin of the early thirteenth century. It is iconic, perhaps ‘the vibe’ of our understanding of rights, but over breakfast with your grandchildren? 

On access to justice, how about this:  

Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut differemus rectum aut justiciam!  
(To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice)

Human rights-based approaches give us the legal grammar for approaching complex balancing issues. It provides a greater embedding of our promises to the world in Australian law and the pathway to do so. A Human Rights Act for Australia is a missing piece in our domestic implementation of our promises to the world.  In this year, the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have the moment to seriously begin the process of bringing rights home. 

More speeches

More speeches by Rosalind Croucher.


  1. The 8th of May marks the day of the unconditional surrender of the German armed forces to the Allies. The war in the Pacific theatre did not end till 2 September that year, with the surrender of Japan.
  2. A recording of Sir Laurence Olivier reading the Preamble of the Charter is included at this link.
  3. On the background to the Charter, see this page.
  4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GA Res 217A (III), UN GAOR, 3rd sess, 183rd plen mtg, UN Doc A/810 (10 December 1948).
  5. History of the Declaration.
  6. A/RES/43 Draft Declaration on Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms, 11 December 1946. A list of all the meetings involved to achieve the final draft and its adoption by the General Assembly is noted at the beginning of the article by S Pinghua: ‘Pengchun Chang’s Contributions to the Drafting of the UDHR’ (2016) 5(5) Journal of Civil & Legal Sciences 209. DOI: 10.4172/2169–0170.1000209.
  7. Kirby tells the story of his Dr Evatt connections in the engaging article, ‘Herbert Vere Evatt, the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights After 60 Years’ (2009) 34(2) University of Western Australia Law Review 238.
  8. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature 16 December 1966, 999 UNTS 171 (entered into force 23 March 1976).
  9. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, opened for signature 16 December 1966, 993 UNTS 3 (entered into force 3 January 1976).
  10. Manfred Nowak, UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 2nd rev ed, NP Engel, 2005, xx. It took another ten years for the Covenants to enter into force: the ICCPR on 23 March 1976; the ICESCR on 3 January 1976.
  11. Apart from the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR on the abolition of the death penalty, which I am sure would have been supported by both sides of politics, it is an equal split for the remaining 20 signing and ratification moments.
  12. National Human Rights Consultation Report (2009).
  13. Accountability was the subject of my presentations: ‘Human rights in the time of COVID: ensuring accountability in the contemporary public health context’, 26th World Congress of Medical Law, Gold Coast, 5 December 2022; and ‘Executive discretion in a time of COVID-19 – promoting, protecting and fulfilling human rights in the contemporary public health context’, 11th Austin Asche Oration in Law and Governance, Australian Academy of Law and Charles Darwin University, 17 November 2022.
  14. Australian Human Rights Commission, Free and Equal: Issues Paper (April 2019).
  15. Australian Human Rights Commission, Discussion Paper: Priorities for federal discrimination law reform (August 2019); Australian Human Rights Commission, Discussion paper: A model for positive human rights reform (August 2019); Australian Human Rights Commission, Discussion paper: Ensuring effective national accountability for human rights (August 2019).
  16. ‘Free and Equal Conference’, Australian Human Rights Commission (Web Page, 2019) - Link.
  17. Roundtables: with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Dr Michelle Bachelet and Professor Manfred Nowak.Ensuring Effective National Accountability for Human Rights Workshop convened in partnership with the Human Rights Institute at UNSW (August 2019). Technical workshop on improving parliamentary scrutiny of human rights, convened in partnership with the Castan Centre for Human Rights at Monash University and the University of Adelaide (May 2021). Roundtables on the positive framing of human rights and the key elements of a federal Human Rights Act (April–June 2021).
  18. <
  19. Published as Submission No 1.
  20. Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) s 40C(2).
  21. Michael Brett Young, From Commitment to Culture: the 2015 Review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (2015) 127.
  22. ACT Human Rights Commission, Look who’s talking: A snapshot of ten years of dialogue under the HRA 2004 (2014).
  23. Robert Verkaik, ‘Lawsuits on human rights halve despite European act’ The Independent (Online) 20 April 2009.
  24. Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) s 46PO(4)(d).
  25. Damages are available for a violation of the UK Human Rights Act but only if this award is necessary to afford just satisfaction to the complainant Human Rights Act 1998 (UK) s 8(3).
  26. While the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZ) does not make specific provision for remedies, the NZ Court of Appeal has held that compensation is available for breach of the human rights protected under that Act: Simpson v Attorney-General (Baigent’s case) [1994] 3 NZLR 667.
  27. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 24(1).
  28. Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (Vic), 39(3); Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT), 40C(4); Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld), 59(3).
  29. Sarah Scopelianos, ‘The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety explained’, ABC (online), 11 February 2019. Link
  30. Rosemary Bolger, ‘It’s not flash being disabled’: PM launches $527 million disability Royal Commission, SBS News (online), 5 April 2019. Link
  31. See, e.g., Australian Lawyers Alliance, Submission 29, Free & Equal Inquiry; Human Rights Law Centre, Submission 65, Free & Equal Inquiry; Uniting Church of Australia, Submission 91, Free & Equal Inquiry; Amnesty International Australia, Submission 103, Free & Equal Inquiry; Australian Privacy Foundation, Submission 119, Free & Equal Inquiry; Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Submission 128, Free & Equal Inquiry; Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Submission 135, Free & Equal Inquiry; Victoria Legal Aid, Submission 141, Free & Equal Inquiry; Sean Stimpson et al., Submission 158, Free & Equal Inquiry.
  32. Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth), ss 15, 15A, 16; Park Oh Ho v Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (1988) 20 FCR 104, 114 (Sweeney J), 126 (Morling J), 134 (Foster J).
  33. For information on the complaints process, see Australian Human Rights Commission, Federal Discrimination Law Online, ch 6: .
  34. This approach was supported by a range of submissions: eg, Lisa Ho, Submission 11, Free & Equal Inquiry; Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Submission 128, Free & Equal Inquiry; Human Rights Law Centre, Submission 65, Free & Equal Inquiry; Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Submission 135, Free & Equal Inquiry; Refugee Advice and Casework Centre, Submission 140, Free & Equal Inquiry.
  35. Scheduling ICESCR to the AHRC Act was supported by submissions to Free & Equal, eg, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Submission 69, Free & Equal Inquiry: McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, Submission 33, Free & Equal Inquiry
rosalind croucher

Rosalind Croucher AM, President

Commission – General