Human rights in the ACT
The Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) (Human Rights Act) provides statutory protection of human rights in the ACT. The ACT was the first jurisdiction in Australia to enact a Human Rights Act.
The Human Rights Act protects several civil and political rights as well as some economic, social and cultural rights. These rights are primarily drawn from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Other laws in the ACT also protect human rights, including the Discrimination Act 1991. Human rights are also protected under international law.
The human rights protected in the Human Rights Act are:
- the right to equality and non-discrimination – s 8
- right to life – s 9
- protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, etc – s 10
- protection of the family and children – s 11
- the right to privacy – s 12
- freedom of movement – s 13
- freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief – s 14
- the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association – s 15
- freedom of expression – s 16
- the right to take part in public life – s 17
- the right to liberty and security of person – s 18
- the right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty – s 19
- the rights of children in the criminal process – s 20
- the rights to a fair trial – s 21
- rights in criminal proceedings – s 22
- the right to compensation for wrongful conviction – s 23
- the right not to be tried or punished more than once – s 24
- the prohibition on retrospective criminal laws – s 25
- freedom of forced work – s 27
- cultural and other rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other minorities – s 27
- the right to education – s 27A
- the right to work and work-related rights – s 27B
Further information about each of these rights can be found in the Human Rights Fact Sheets.
Scrutiny of laws for human rights compatibility
When a bill is presented to the Legislative Assembly, it must be accompanied by a written statement (a compatibility statement) about the bill, which must state whether, in the Attorney-General’s opinion, the bill is consistent with human rights.
Where a bill engages and limit human rights, the explanatory statement accompanying the bill identifies any human rights that are engaged and justifies any reasonable limits on human rights.
A copy of the explanatory statements accompanying ACT legislation can be found at www.legislation.act.gov.au
The Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety (Legislative Scrutiny Role) is a Committee of the Legislative Assembly for the ACT that reports to the Assembly about human rights issues raised by bills presented to the Assembly.
Obligations of public authorities
People who claim that a public authority has acted in breach of their human rights under the Human Rights Act may bring proceedings in the Supreme Court.
The role of the Courts
ACT Courts and Tribunals also have a role in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Courts are required to interpret all law consistently with human rights, and to issue a declaration of incompatibility where they find that a law is incompatible with the HRA.
Courts can also draw on international jurisprudence when interpreting human rights.