Education and training of staff on human rights principles   

Quality, Complaints and Regulation

The Senior Practitioner continued to present regular information sessions in partnership with the ACT Human Rights Commission (HRC). During 2020-21, a total of 14 information sessions were offered online, free of charge for anybody impacted by the Senior Practitioner Act 2018. In addition, the Senior Practitioner has continued to host the Seminar Series, which is offered free of charge. In 2020-21, each of the four Seminars continued to showcase evidence-based approaches for the reduction and elimination of restrictive practices which strongly aligns with human rights principles.

Office for Women

The Office for Women coordinates events and communications across the ACT Government, promoting significant days of action, such as International Women’s Day, the International Day of the Girl Child and the 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence, which runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and runs until 10 December, and Human Rights Day. This promotion includes events such as the ACT Women’s awards, planned to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Office for Seniors and Veterans

The Office for Seniors and Veterans (OSV) supported and funded the World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEEAD) Expo. WEEAD is an UN-designated day, marked on 15 June each year, and aims to raise awareness of abuse of older people, and older people’s human rights.
 
Housing ACT

Housing ACT (HACT) continued to provide induction training for new starters in 2020-21 as well as an expanded mandatory Learning Pathway for Client Services Branch staff.  It was anticipated that Human Rights Training would be included as mandatory learning for all HACT staff as part of their induction and ongoing learning and development, but this was delayed. This will now roll-out in 2021-22.
 
Human rights continued to be a consideration in all tenancy matters considered by the Tenancy Early Intervention Review panel which reviews all matters proposed for referral to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).

Information held in the Directorates’ learning management system, outlines that 14 Community Services Directorate employees, from the Children, Youth and Families (CYF) division, completed the face-to-face HRC and Public Advocate Information course across two sessions.

The two sessions were held on:

  • 26 November 2020 – four employees attended; and
  • 28 January 2021 – 10 employees attended.

Children, Youth and Families

One employee completed the Human Rights Bimberi e-Learning Course.

Twenty-five staff at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre attended induction training during the 2020–21 financial year, which includes a component on the human rights principles. Training for new staff is provided by the HRC.

Refresher training is also conducted throughout the year to ensure staff are kept up to date with their duties and obligations to young people in custody. A Human Rights e-Learning module for all Bimberi staff was developed by the Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) Training and Workforce Development team this training will be rolled out to Bimberi staff on an annual basis.

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

Quality, Complaints and Regulation (QCR)

While Quality, Complaints and Regulation (QCR) does not generally have a specific format or template to review policies and procedures against human rights, QCR does operate from a human rights platform and is guided by the intent of the Human Rights Act 2004 in all aspects of its operation.

National Multicultural Festival Team

The National Multicultural Festival event operations and processes are reviewed as part of the post event review and continuous improvement practices. As part of this review, several factors are considered including community, financial and social (including human rights) impacts.

In the reporting year, no standalone reviews were undertaken into human rights issues in internal policies and procedures. However, consistent with the requirement of the Directorate’s policy development procedure, consistency with the Human Rights Act 2004 has been considered as part of policy development and implementation throughout this period.

Housing ACT

Human rights are included as a specific item of discussion in all tenancy matters considered by the Tenant Early Intervention Review panel which reviews all tenancy matters proposed for referral to the ACAT. At each meeting of the Tenant Early Intervention Review panel, the panel specifically considers the human rights of the tenant.  These considerations are documented and provided in the final report to the delegate.

Children, Youth and Families

Existing CYPS policy and procedure is consistent with the legal requirements set out in the human rights compliant Children and Young People Act 2008. All policy artefacts are quality assured through an Integrated Management System process, including the Manager, Legal Services to ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act 2004 as well as other relevant legislation. Policy and procedures are reviewed in line with a review schedule which ensures policy artefacts are reviewed every three years at minimum.

Bimberi Youth Justice Centre undertook a review of all key documentation to ensure consistency with the Human Rights Act 2004. Bimberi Youth Justice ensures all policy and procedures are quality assured through an Integrated Management System process to ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act 2004 as well as other relevant legislation. Policy and procedures are reviewed in line with a structured review schedule.

Strategic Policy

In late 2020, Strategic Policy led work to develop the Government Response to the Standing Committee on Health and Community Services Inquiry into Child and Youth Protection Services (Parts One and Two). This noted that far-reaching legislative reform of the Children and Young People Act 2008 is required to respond to the Committee’s recommendations. The Government Response identified human rights implications for potential changes to information-sharing processes, which will need to balance privacy and human rights obligations with the rights and best interests of the child or young person as paramount.

Any guidelines or checklists developed to incorporate consideration of public authority obligations under s 40B of the Human Rights Act in decision making

Quality, Complaints and Regulation

A new Restrictive Intervention Data System (RIDS) has now been released (live) via a soft launch and there is a staged plan for onboarding providers. Providers have been allocated into numerous cohorts, with a focus of onboarding the 30 providers (cohort one) that report most often to the Office of the Senior Practitioner. Once the initial 30 providers have been set-up, the implementation efforts will continue with cohort two.

The RIDS functionality will allow for reporting and monitoring the use of restrictive practices and for the development, authorisation, and registration of positive behaviour support plans.

Housing ACT

HACT reviews all tenancy matters proposed for referral to the ACAT. Each report prepared for the delegate includes consideration of public authority obligations under the Human Rights Act 2004. The Tenant Early Intervention Review panel seeks to ensure that all recommended actions are defensible and client-centred and that human rights are carefully considered in all circumstances. There is also information about the consideration of Human Rights implications in the decision-making processes of the department within the customer service commitment charter here:
Customer Service Commitment Charter - Community Services (act.gov.au) and the Community Services Directorate Human Rights Policy here: Human Rights Policy

Resources available through the ACT Human Rights Commission are also utilised in the development of policy and processes.

Children, Youth and Families

All CYPS policies and procedures are developed in relation to decision making and is compliant with the Children and Young People Act 2008, and therefore compliant with Section 40B of the Human Rights Act.

CYPS Practice Guideline: Human rights compliance and limitations – youth justice, provides information about the human rights that apply when working with young people in youth justice. The information provided is relevant to all staff and should be considered before making any decision that will affect the freedom, dignity, safety and wellbeing of the young person.

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

Housing ACT

HACT has regular contact with Canberra Community Law and shares information about the Tenant Early Intervention Review Panel.  The purpose of this is to assist Canberra Community Law in supporting HACT clients who may approach them for legal advice or assistance.

Children, Youth and Families

Representatives of the CYPS Policy team have continued membership on the Aboriginal Co-Design Network. Last financial year additional work had been completed to encourage greater input from Aboriginal advocacy and support services in child protection decision making. CYPS procedures still require that CYPS staff are proactive about asking clients if they would like an advocate and taking responsibility for making the necessary arrangements as indicated by the family.

The Charter of Rights for Young People in Bimberi Youth Justice Centre is a guide provided to young people to inform them of their rights and responsibilities while in detention. It supports young people to understand how they can expect to be treated and how they should treat others while in custody.

Staff at Bimberi are responsible for ensuring that young people’s rights are protected and that they are treated with dignity and respect. Twelve rights are outlined in the Charter of Rights for Young People. Posters are also on display throughout the centre reiterating to both young people and staff their obligations. The young people are explained these rights upon induction and throughout their period
in custody.

The Working Together with Kids - Feedback and Raising Concerns booklet identifies the HRC as an external complaint agency and provides contact details. It identifies the HRC as responding to complaints of ‘unlawful discrimination, contravention of the health privacy principles, or about services for children and young people, and services to people with disabilities and their carers’.

The contact details of the Discrimination, Health Services, Disability and Community Services Commissioner within the HRC, are provided in Complaints and Client Services (CCS) complaint responses to facilitate complaint escalation, as required.

Strategic Policy

To support amendments to the Adoption Act 1993 that commenced on 1 September 2020, Strategic Policy worked with CYF to prepare an information sheet for publication on the Community Services Directorate (CSD) website in early 2021. The document explains the amendments and incorporates a ‘Questions and Answers’ section responding to identified issues, including human rights issues. For example, it considers changes to the criteria for determining a child’s ‘best interests’, which reflect earlier engagement with Human Rights Advisors to ensure compatibility with the Human Rights Act 2004. The information sheet also explains how the Adoption Act 1993 guides the Court’s decisions to balance the rights of children, birth parents and prospective adoptive parents.

Human Rights Act considerations included in the complaints handling framework

Quality, Complaints and Regulation

Information pertaining to the HRC is made available to complainants coming to QCR to make a complaint about CSD or a regulated provider. The Human Services Registrar ensures that regulated providers are aware of and provide information to their service users about the HRC and the options to make a complaint through that agency in relation to any infringement of their human rights.

Housing ACT

HACT follows the CSD Complaints Handling and Management Policy (CHaMP) which is based on the principles of human rights, natural justice, and procedural fairness.

Children, Youth and Families

CCS within CYF continues to be guided by the CHaMP in responding to Complaints and Feedback. The CHaMP guidelines are publicly available and identify the obligation to comply with the legislative requirements of the Human Rights Act 2004 ‘to act consistently with Human Rights’ and when making decisions to give ‘proper consideration to relevant human rights’.

CYF and, CCS considers human rights obligations when conducting complaint investigations and refers complainants to the HRC.

The CHaMP is compatible with the Human Rights Act 2004 and references the application of the principles of natural justice.

Complaints can be lodged with the HRC under the Human Rights Commission ACT 2005, about a service for children. In written responses to the HRC, CYF are required to articulate how human rights considerations have occurred throughout decision-making and in the delivery of service.

Inclusion of Human Rights Act obligations in contracts and tenders

Inclusion and Participation (Community Relations & Funding Support (CRFS)

CSD adheres to the Human Rights Act 2004 obligations when procuring services on behalf of the ACT Government. CSD ensures policies are implemented in the planning process. When tendering for Services, suppliers that are tendering must complete an Ethical Supplier’s Declaration form of which suppliers has made provisions for all other benefits (as required by prescribed Legislations and any Industrial Instruments). When CSD goes out to market through a tender process, respondents address selection criteria, with one of the weighted criteria being Social Procurement.

Through 2020-21, CRFS negotiated single select contracts and grants for the delivery of community services to meet COVID-19 Health Emergency Responses. These contracts aligned with the Human Rights Act obligations and provided for service delivery to and access to programs by the most vulnerable in the community.

Internal dissemination of information to staff on the legislative scrutiny process

Quality and Complaints Regulation

Staff in QCR are aware of and comply with the obligation for legislation in the ACT to conform to the Human Rights Act 2004. Proposed legislation is assessed against the Human Rights Act to test whether the planned provisions will comply. When provisions cannot comply, for example, a proposal may restrict a person’s humans right (for example a right to safety versus a right to privacy), steps are taken to ensure that the infringement of the right is justified and minimised to the greatest possible extent.

Housing ACT

HACT has continued to meet quarterly with the HRC to foster a strong working relationship between both organisations and to improve cooperation and understanding of how human rights are being considered in day-to-day decision-making across HACT.

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

Children, Youth and Families

Complaints can be lodged with the HRC under the Human Rights Commission ACT 2005, about a service for children. CCS and CYPS have continued to engage collaboratively with the HRC in resolving complaint matters through a process of conciliation. 

Strategic Policy

Strategic Policy engages with Human Rights Advisors when developing or amending legislation, to guide a balance between human rights such as the protection of family and children; cultural rights; and the right to privacy and reputation (for example). Strategic Policy led or contributed to several legislation reform processes in 2019-20, working with Human Rights Advisors to identify human rights issues. Some related implementation work has continued in 2020-21. For example, Strategic Policy worked with Children, Youth and Families (CSD) and JACS in late 2020, responding to human rights implications around possible extensions of non-health related COVID-19 emergency response measures.

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

Quality, Complaints and Regulation

In June 2021 the Senior Practitioner Amendment Bill 2021 was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly. The Bill seeks additional time before a review of the Senior Practitioner Act 2018 (the Act) can occur. The Act contains provisions that both engage and promote or limit human rights in relation to regulating and reducing the
use of restrictive practices on vulnerable people. During the Bill’s development due regard was given to its compatibility with human rights as set out in the Human Rights Act 2004. The Bill is due for debate in
August 2021.

The CSD, through the CSD complaints management committee, are currently implementing recommendations from the Complaints Management Independent Audit Report ACT Community Services Directorate October 2020, which includes CSD CHaMP.

Litigation

Housing ACT

Over the past year, HACT had four matters before the ACAT which involved human rights arguments. Three matters were dismissed, and the other was successfully settled through mediation. CSD responded to one claim regarding an employment outcome, where the complainant’s claims were not upheld.  A second claim alleging discrimination is currently before the HRC.