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Discrimination Human Rights
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28 September 2015


Welcome to the VPS Human Rights Network news.

The 2015 Review of Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities led by Mr Michael Brett Young was recently tabled in Parliament. The 52 recommendations in his report offer practical steps to building a human rights culture in Victoria, including by enhancing human rights education across the public sector and in the community. Read more about the review and access our submission.

Save the date: the 2015 Human Rights Oration on 10 December is drawing close and we are delighted to announce Dr Anita Heiss will be presenting the keynote speech. Free tickets will be available on our website very soon. In the meantime you can find out more about our passionate speaker and her work with the Aboriginal community.

What would you like to read in our network news? Have you attended our network events? How could we highlight the relevance of human rights in your day to day work? We would love to hear how we can keep you informed and engaged on human rights issues. Please send your feedback to legal@veohrc.vic.gov.au

Lastly, keep an eye out for our next VPS Network event - we'll be sending your invitation soon.

Enjoy the read!


New developments


2015 Charter Review report tabled in Parliament

The 2015 Review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, From Commitment to Culture, was tabled in Parliament on 17 September 2015.

The Review was led by Mr Michael Brett Young with the aim of enhancing the effectiveness of the Charter and improving its operation. There are a range of recommendations in the report that offer practical steps to building a human rights culture in Victoria, including by enhancing human rights education across the public sector and in the community.

The Commission made a submission to the 2015 Review with 27 key recommendations on ways to enhance the effectiveness and improve the operation of the Charter. The Commission recommended it be given a range of functions to enhance the development of a human rights culture in Victoria.

Read more

Commission congratulates Victorian Government on family violence leave

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins, pictured above with Family Violence Prevention Minister Fiona Richardson and Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins, congratulated the Victorian Government for committing to a model clause for a family violence leave provision to be included in public sector enterprise agreements.

Commissioner Jenkins said it was important for the government to lead on gender equality with its own employees, and acknowledge the impact employers can have in influencing community attitudes on gender inequality.

Read more

Save the date: 2015 Human Rights Oration

The Commission is pleased to announce Dr Anita Heiss will present the 2015 Human Rights Oration on 10 December. Anita is the author of non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women's fiction, poetry, social commentary and travel articles. She is a regular guest at writers' festivals and travels internationally performing her work and lecturing on Indigenous literature. Tickets will be available very soon.

Read more

New Gender and Sexuality Commissioner

In July 2015, the Victorian Government appointed Rowena Allen as Victoria's first Gender and Sexuality Commissioner. The Commissioner will champion the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse and intersex (LGBTI) Victorians within the Government.

Ms Allen, pictured above with Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins, has worked in LGBTI social justice for over 20 years, setting up the first rural same sex attracted youth program, giving her a particular understanding of the issues faced in rural and regional areas. Find out more about her in our recent interview.

The 2015-16 Victorian Budget allocated $3.2 million to establish and resource Australia's first dedicated Equality portfolio within the Department of Premier and Cabinet. This includes the creation of a Gender and Sexuality Commissioner, an LGBTI Taskforce and a program of reform to remove discrimination from our laws and services.

Read more

Thanks to our Human Rights Complaints Handling panel

On 15 May 2015, the Commission hosted a VPS Network event, a panel discussion on Human Rights Complaint Handling. The event was convened in light of the announcement of the 2015 Charter Review. The panel discussed existing pathways for members of the public to raise human rights complaints, experiences and challenges faced by those who exercise this role, and how those challenges might be addressed.

The event was moderated by Director of the Commissioner's Office Catherine Dixon (pictured far left). Panellists (pictured second left to right) were Acting Principal Investigator/Conciliator of the Australian Human Rights Commission Caroline Tjoa, Manager of the Commission's Dispute Resolution Unit Michelle Mead, Project Manager of the Secretariat for the 2015 Charter Review Kerin Leonard and Senior Legal Adviser of the Victorian Ombudsman Kristy Fisher.

The event was very well attended, with a lively and informed question and answer session. Thanks to our panellists and all those who attended and stay tuned for our next VPS Network event!




Video: Aboriginal Cultural Rights: a human rights framework

On 21 July 2015, Victorian Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins and Australian Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda spoke at a public event regarding Aboriginal Cultural Rights.

The discussion was moderated by Tim Goodwin, barrister and board member of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and the Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation.

Watch a recording of the event

2014 report on the operation of the Charter

The Commission has published its 2014 Report on the operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. The report highlights that after eight years of operation, the use of the Charter has matured beyond simple compliance with the law. 

The Charter is not only part of 'everyday business' for many public authorities, but drives important human rights initiatives to address systemic issues. In this way, it prompts organisations to take a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to their operations and the way they engage with the community.

Read more
source here

Victorian Human Rights Charter Case Collection

The Judicial College of Victoria and the Supreme Court of Victoria have developed a new publication summarising over 70 published decisions on the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 from 2007 to 2014.

The publication is fully indexed by Charter right or section and will be updated continually.

View the publication online

Castan Centre Human Rights Report 2015

The Castan Centre's Human Rights Report follows some of the many human rights issues facing people around the world today. According to the report, the most topical issues this year include 'closing the gap' on Indigenous Australians, the rights of asylum seekers, and how lawyers and judges often fail to use human rights laws to protect prisoners.

The report also highlights the connection between human rights in Australia and overseas, from commercial surrogacy to LGBTI rights, land grabs and international criminal law to the death

Download the report

Recent court and tribunal decisions


VCAT applies Charter in mosque planning decision

In Hoskin v Greater Bendigo CC and Anor, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal considered human rights when reviewing a decision by the Bendigo City Council to grant a permit for a mosque and associated facilities. The granting of the permit was opposed by a number of objectors.

The Tribunal accepted that both the Council and the Tribunal were public authorities and so were required to give proper consideration to human rights under section 38 of the Charter.  The Tribunal agreed that the relevant Charter rights of those individuals who would use the mosque were the right to freedom of thought, religion and belief under section 14(1)(b) and cultural rights under section 19(1). 

The Tribunal emphasised the importance of religious equality and freedom.  In upholding the Council's decision to grant the permit, the Tribunal recognised all relevant rights when weighing up the matters before it, including the rights of the persons who will use the mosque as well as those of the objectors.

The objectors have sought to appeal VCAT's decision.

Read the case or find our more about how council planning decisions can consider human rights.


OPI fails to give proper consideration to human rights

In Bare v IBAC, the Court of Appeal found that the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) failed to give proper consideration to human rights when considering Mr Bare's complaint against Victoria Police.  Among other things, Mr Bare had complained to OPI that he was capsicum sprayed by police while handcuffed, had his teeth chipped on the gutter during his arrest and was racially abused by officers. The OPI decided to refer the complaint to Victoria Police for investigation rather than investigating it themselves.

The Supreme Court dismissed Mr Bare's challenge of the OPI decision. However, a majority of the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered that a fresh decision be made by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (which has replaced the OPI). The Court of Appeal found that the OPI had failed under section 38 of the Charter to give proper consideration to Mr Bare's right to protection from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in section 10(b) and right to equality in section 8(3) of the Charter. The Court also found that section 10 of the Charter did not contain an implied right to an effective investigation independent of Victoria Police. 

Read the judgment, and the Court of Appeal's summary of the judgment.


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