Education and training of staff on human rights principles

This year, two staff completed the Human Rights Act e-learning. In addition, there were 191 instances of employees completing training focused on human rights issues including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander awareness and economic participation, diversity and inclusion, and domestic and family violence awareness.

Reviews undertaken of internal policies and procedures for compatibility with human rights

In the reporting year, no specific reviews were undertaken into human rights issues into internal policies and procedures. However, it is a requirement of the Directorate’s policy development procedure that consistency with the Human Rights Act 2004 is considered as part of development. Any guidelines or checklists developed to incorporate consideration of public authority obligations under s 40B of the Human Rights Act in decision making

A Public Health Emergency has been declared in the ACT to combat coronavirus (COVID-19). This provides the Chief Health Officer with additional powers to do whatever is necessary to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and reduce its risk to the health of Canberrans. The Chief Health Officer has published a statement ’Consideration of Human Rights Implications of Imposed Public Health Emergency Directions’.

Any dissemination of information about agency obligations under the Human Rights Act to clients

The ACT Health website provides information to healthcare consumers on how to provide feedback on health services. There is also information about the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights.

The Chief Health Officer has published a statement ’Consideration of Human Rights Implications of Imposed Public Health Emergency Directions’ to the ACT Government’s COVID-19 website.

The Office of the Chief Psychiatrist makes information available to service providers, consumers and carers about their rights and the obligations under the Mental Health Act 2015.

Human Rights Act considerations included in the complaints handling framework

The ACT Health Directorate is committed to operating in an open and accountable manner. This is achieved by working collaboratively with healthcare consumers in decision making about health services planning, policy development, setting priorities and quality issues, and in the provision of best practice care. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the Directorate’s website provides useful information and links to healthcare consumers on how to provide feedback on health services including information about the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights and public health complaints. The Directorate is committed to providing a fair process for dealing with a complainant’s concerns and acting with integrity. With this in mind, work has commenced within the Directorate to implement a number of internal policies and procedures that include human rights considerations and support this accountability.

Inclusion of Human Rights Act obligations in contracts and tenders

All staff in the ACT Health Directorate involved in the procurement of goods and services must follow the purchasing principles and guidelines as stated in the Government Procurement Act 2001, Government Procurement Regulation 2007 and Government Procurement Amendment Regulation 2009 (No 1).

Internal dissemination of information to staff on the legislative scrutiny process

The ACT Health Directorate, Ministerial and Government Services conducts information sessions with Directorate staff to provide education and guidance on Cabinet and Assembly requirements and processes, including the legislative scrutiny process. When initiating Cabinet requests for legislative amendments, the Cabinet and Assembly Officers issue specific instructions for action officers to have early consultation with the Human Rights team in the JACS Directorate to ensure due consideration is given to any potential human rights implications.

Liaison with the Human Rights Advisors on human rights principles or the legislative scrutiny process

The Human Rights team in the JACS Directorate is routinely consulted for advice when developing legislation that is likely to have human rights implications. All ACT Health Directorate draft bills are considered by the Human Rights team in JACS for compatibility with the Human Rights Act 2004 prior to the bill being introduced in the ACT Legislative Assembly. Issues identified in ACT Health Directorate bills as a result of the Legislative Assembly's scrutiny process are also addressed.

The Directorate prepared the following which had impacts on human rights:

  • Mental Health Amendment Act 2020 – considerable consultation with the Human Rights team in JACS occurred during the development of the bill. The Act was notified on 27 August 2020.

The ACT Health Directorate is still in discussions with the Human Rights Team in relation to a potential Human Rights Commission Amendment Bill to implement the National Code of Conduct for Healthcare Workers in the ACT.

Reviews or preparations for reviews of existing legislation for compatibility with the Human Rights Act

The ACT Health Directorate has administrative responsibility – shared with Canberra Health Services - for the Mental Health Act 2015 and the Mental Health (Secure Facilities) Act 2016, both of which have significant human rights implications. The Directorate is actively reviewing these pieces of legislation, with a focus on how these are working in practice, the extent to which they are impacting on human rights and whether these impacts are proportionate. It is anticipated that a review of the Mental Health (Secure Facilities) Act will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly in the latter half of 2021.

Litigation

There were no relevant litigation matters for the ACT Health Directorate for the reporting period 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.