Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate

Education and training of staff on human rights principles   

In the 2020-21 reporting period, the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) provided many training opportunities to staff, which incorporated human rights considerations and principles.

Respect, Equity and Diversity training attended by 144 staff included specific information on obligations under the Human Rights Act 2004.

Further training opportunities included:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Awareness training, attended by 71 staff
  • Cultural Safety training attended by 22 staff
  • Disability Awareness training, attended by 41 staff
  • Domestic and Family Violence e-Learning, attended by 120 staff
  • Effectively Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employees training, attended by 16 staff
  • LGBTIQ+ Awareness training, attended by 76 staff
  • Mental Health Awareness training, attended by 27 staff
  • Reportable Conduct Scheme training attended by 119 staff

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

EPSDD regularly reviews its policies and procedures as required as part of its continuous improvement practices. Over 2020-21, the Directorate finalised the drafting of its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2021-2023. To grow awareness, support and knowledge, EPSDD has launched a number of employee-led networks and produced events around significant cultural days throughout the year.

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

As required by section 40B of the Human Rights Act 2004, EPSDD incorporates consideration of relevant human rights into decision-making.

In 2020-21, the EPSDD produced a practice note on the Duties of Public Authorities under the Human Rights Act, as part of its series of practice notes on Integrity in Decision-making.

The Public Place Names (Naming of Public Places) Guidelines 2021 (NI2021-72) were developed by the Office of the Surveyor-General and signed by the Minister for Planning and Land Management on 11 February 2021. Human rights and cultural sensitivities were considered during development of the Guidelines, and the Guidelines consider that local Aboriginal vocabulary should be taken into account when naming public places.

The Guidelines state that a person’s name should not be determined as a public place name unless reasonable steps have been taken to contact the person’s relatives, associates, appropriate cultural group or relevant professional organisation. This provision is intended to safeguard an individual’s right to privacy and reputation in accordance with section 12 of the Human Rights Act 2004.

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

EPSDD’s Legal Policy and Integrity section provides advice within the Directorate on human rights impacts of policies and legislation and the agency’s obligation as a public authority under section 40B of the Human Rights 2004. This facilitates information on human rights obligations being given to the Directorate’s clients.

Human Rights Act considerations included in the complaints handling framework

EPSDD staff adhere to principles of natural justice during complaints handling, including the initial assessments of complaints and assessments of disclosures made under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2012.

Specific complaints may be covered by other complaints handling frameworks; for example, privacy complaints are covered by the Information Privacy Act 2014. Obligations under the Information Privacy Act 2014 reflect obligations to protect the right to privacy provided for by section 12 of the Human Rights Act 2004.

Inclusion of Human Rights Act obligations in contracts and tenders

As standard practice, EPSDD uses whole-of-government contract and tender templates drafted by the ACT Government Solicitor’s Office. Whole-of-government contract templates incorporate consideration to the right to privacy through clauses relating to the protection of personal information.

Internal dissemination of information to staff on the legislative scrutiny process

EPSDD’s Legal Policy and Integrity team regularly provides information to staff on the legislative scrutiny process, including the consideration of human rights.

The team routinely directs staff to relevant whole-of-government resources, such as JACS’ Procedure on Explanatory Statements and Human Rights Compatibility Statements, and e-Learning courses provided on the Human Rights Commission’s website.

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

In 2020-21, EPSDD consulted with Human Rights advisors during the drafting of each Directorate bill. As 2020 was an election year there was only one sitting period for the Legislative Assembly during the reporting period.

Human rights compatibility statements were provided for each bill, and explanatory statements addressed the bills’ impact on human rights. Three compatibility statements were issued for portfolio bills in 2020-21:

  • Loose-fill Asbestos Legislation Amendment Bill 2021
  • Utilities Amendment Bill 2021
  • Planning and Development Amendment Bill 2021

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

As required by the Human Rights Act 2004, all legislation within the EPSDD portfolio introduced after the Act came into effect in 2004 was issued with a compatibility statement.

Litigation

Human rights issues were raised in two planning matters before the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT):

  • Hobbs v ACT Planning and Land Authority [2020] ACT 58, concerning the right to privacy; and
  • Village No 2 Pty Limited v ACT Planning and Land Authority [2021] ACAT 43, concerning the right to a fair trial.

In both cases, ACAT held that the applicants’ submissions that their human rights had been breached had not been made out. While it was not central to the applicant’s argument, in Hobbs ACAT held that the applicant’s right to privacy had not been breached, while in Village No 2, ACAT held that both parties to a tribunal hearing had a right to a fair trial, not just the applicant. While it was not argued in the case, it is worth noting that in Village No 2, the applicant was a corporation and the respondent was a government agency, so neither party actually had any human rights (see Human Rights Act 2004, section 6: “Only individuals have human rights”.)

EPSDD resolved one matter before ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) in its discrimination jurisdiction, in which issues regarding fairness in an employment matter were raised. In Complainant 252020 v The Australian Capital Territory as represented by Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate [2021] ACAT 53, ACAT held that the applicant was not subjected to discrimination by EPSDD during the course of her employment and the application was dismissed.