Education and training of staff on human rights principles
The Education Directorate is committed to protecting human rights, including the right to education, equality and non-discrimination and the rights of children to protection. This includes ensuring that all students can access and participate in education on the same basis as their peers. It also recognises a child’s right to be heard and supported to participate in decisions that affect them. Human rights principles training for staff is embedded within the broader training program for Directorate employees, such as training on the ACTPS Code of Conduct and the Respect, Equity and Diversity framework. Human rights principles training is not a stand-alone training product. Data on the provision of training for these sessions will be enhanced with the delivery of HRIMS Learning Management System but is not available for the 2020-21 reporting period.
Reviews undertaken of internal policies and procedures for compatibility with human rights
The Education Directorate’s Policy Development Framework includes:
- advice to policy owners on consideration of the ACT Human Rights Act, together with
other key legislation, in the course of policy development; and
- advice on consultation with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) where appropriate.
The Framework and guidance materials are undergoing review. New or updated guidance materials will contain advice on assessing compatibility with human rights. Recent policy reviews include the Suspensions, Exclusions and Transfers Policy.
Any guidelines or checklists developed to incorporate consideration of public authority obligations under s 40B of the Human Rights Act in decision making
The Education Directorate’s Policy Development Framework includes a checklist of key legislation that has been considered in policy development. The ACT Human Rights Act 2004 is listed as a piece of legislation that should be considered, with a link to the legislation provided.
Any dissemination of information about agency obligations under the Human Rights Act to clients
The Directorate’s website references the Human Rights Act 2004 and its commencement on 1 July 2004. Since then, public officials have been required to interpret agency-relevant legislation consistently with human rights unless the Territory law clearly authorises otherwise. For example, the Directorate publishes a factsheet for parents and carers in relation to school uniforms on its website that provides references to human rights
Human Rights Act considerations included in the complaints handling framework
In late 2019/early 2020, the Directorate undertook a review of the Complaints Management Framework.
This included practices, procedures and policy reconsideration. The review included consideration of human rights principles with a redesign of practices and procedures which has ensured complaints management is independent, fair and accessible by all. The redesign of the complaints management framework is now being rolled out in two phases. Internal complaints management (Education Support Office) and external complaints management (schools). Phase 1 has been completed with Phase 2 rolling out later in 2021. It is anticipated that new supporting materials for this policy will be available at the end of 2021 that clearly outline internal and external complaint avenues to students and parents. Transparency has been considered when creating the materials as well as processes that are underpinned by best practice. Human right obligations are also considered when conducting escalated complaint investigations, with an option for complainant referral to
Inclusion of Human Rights Act obligations in contracts and tenders
The Directorate uses the ACT Government standardised templates for contracts and tenders. It is a requirement of all respondents to abide by all relevant legislation in connection with any engagement that they might have with the Territory, including meeting their obligations and compliance with the Human Rights Act 2004.
Internal dissemination of information to staff on the legislative scrutiny process
ACT Government messages in relation to human rights topics are made available to all staff.
Liaison with the Human Rights Advisors on human rights principles or the legislative scrutiny process
The Director-General meets with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) twice a year.
To support the consideration of the Education Amendment Bill 2020, the Education Directorate consulted with the HRC and the Human Rights Scrutiny team in the Justice and Community Safety (JACS) Directorate. A compatibility statement was issued to support the presentation of the Bill.
The Education Directorate consulted with the Human Rights Scrutiny team in the JACS Directorate in relation to seeking Policy Approval for the Education Amendment Bill 2021. The Bill proposes amendments to the Education Act 2004 that will consider:
- the non-government school registration process and requirements
- the roles of the Registrar and non-government school principals and proprietors
- the definition and processes for suspensions, transfers, expulsions and exclusions for all schooling sectors; and
- the reporting of un-enrolments, contract terminations, transfers, expulsions and exclusions for all schooling sectors.
Feedback from the Human Rights Scrutiny team in the JACS Directorate noted the importance of the inclusion of a provision to ensure non-government schools can demonstrate compliance with law through the registration process.
Reviews or preparations for reviews of existing legislation for compatibility with the Human Rights Act
A review of the Education Act 2004 is being undertaken in line with the Future of Education Strategy, which sets the direction for education over the next ten years.
One of the first actions under the foundation of ‘systems supporting learning’ is to review and amend the Education Act 2004, to strengthen equity, student agency, access and inclusion. In the 2020-21 period, the second tranche of amendments to the Education Act 2004, through the Education Amendment Bill 2020, were introduced and implemented.
Policy approval was also sought to enable the development of the Education Amendment Bill 2021. Human rights implications were considered as part of the policy development phase.
Two matters were considered by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) in 2020-21. One matter alleged discrimination on the grounds of disability in the area of education. The HRC determined that the matter was unlikely to be conciliated, and at the applicant’s request referred the matter to the ACAT in December 2019. In January 2021 the ACAT issued an Order that the application be dismissed. The other matter involved the review of a decision to suspend a student following an internal review that upheld the original decision. In December 2020 the ACAT issued an Order that the decision to suspend be set aside and substituted a decision that no action be taken under s.36 (of the Education Act 2004).