According to the Queensland Human Rights Commission, as of 1 January 2020, when the second stage of the Human Rights Act 2019 is expected to come into effect, Queensland will have the strongest legislated human rights protections in Australia.
The Act places obligations on public entities – state and local governments, the Queensland public sector, some community organisations, and state schools and hospitals – to act and make decisions in accordance with the rights protected by the Act. These obligations apply in direct service provision through to policy making and how they handle complaints.
Under the Act, Parliament also needs to consider human rights when making or changing legislation, and the judiciary has to interpret laws, as far as they are able, in line with the Act.
In addition to protecting the human rights of Queenslanders, the Act intends to start a dialogue about human rights to encourage Public Entities to view how they do things through a human rights lens.
Some interesting points from the Introduction to the Human Rights Act training we attended in November:
- There are 23 human rights protected under the Act – the right to housing is not one of them. However, it was suggested that there are opportunities under the Right to Privacy and Reputation that have been used in Victoria to address issues in the housing arena, such as tenancy matters and evictions.
- There are some awesome sections that should make a big difference to young people’s experiences with statutory agencies including in detention and the child protection system including the Right to protection of families and children, Cultural rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Rights of children in the criminal process and rights to health services and education (private and non-government schools are not required to comply with the Act).
- The legal remedies available for people who have experienced a breach of the Act are quite limited (e.g. there isn’t an option of compensation or damages for a person who has experienced a breach).
- “Public Entities” must a) give proper consideration to human rights when making decisions and b) act and make decisions in a way that is compatible with human rights.
- While the Act defines “Public Entities” that are bound by the Act (and this may include non-government organisations that are engaged to deliver services to the public on behalf of government), the Commission encourages all service delivery organisations, whether they are bound or not, to apply a human rights lens to their policies and procedures as a means to ensuring best practice.
QYHC is looking forward to the opportunities that the Act will bring to open dialogue about how we, as service providers, consider the human rights of our clients, and also how we can encourage the public entities our clients are in contact with to do the same.
For further information, there are some great resources available on the Human Rights Commission website.