Are human rights and responsibilities sufficiently protected and promoted?

| May 19, 2009
NHROC logo

Would you be able to explain to a new Australian citizen how our rights and liberties are protected and promoted?

Australia is signatory to a number of international human rights treaties and declarations.

The Australian Human Rights Commission and its state and territory equivalents have been established to protect and promote our human rights.

However, there are still many instances where human rights are not protected as well as they should be; or where people are not even aware of the rights they have, let alone what do if their rights are under threat.

NHROC logoBelow are some questions we've been asking at our community roundtables all around Australia. Many people have shared their personal experiences. We have heard some sad stories, frustrating stories and a few truly inspirational stories.

Would you be able to explain to a new Australian citizen how our rights and liberties are protected and promoted?

How are these rights and liberties protected?

Could our rights and liberties be better promoted?

Should we have a document or law setting out these rights and liberties?

What role does the Australian Government play in protecting human rights?

Who should be obliged to protect human rights – the Australian Government? Businesses? Individuals?

Are there any circumstances in which you think that your human rights and responsibilities should be suspended? If so, when?

If you are concerned about your human rights, or those of someone else, or a particular group of people whose rights are infringed, we encourage you to outline those concerns here so they can be included in our report to the Australian Government (please respect other people's privacy). If you have suggestions about how, in a practical sense, their situation could be improved, please include them.

If there are areas where you believe Australia is failing in our human rights obligations, tell us. Tell us if you think there are laws and systems in place which should have prevented these failures, or if new regulations, standards or some other solution is required.

The Committee is interested to hear your views.

The National Human Rights Online Consultation closes on Friday 26 June 2009. Please, share your views!

Father Frank Brennan
Chair, National Human Rights Consultation Committee


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The comments published below represent a wide range of views and interests of the participating individuals and organisations. Statements made during online discussions are the personal opinions of the commentators and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee or Open Forum.
Open Forum, on behalf of the Attorney-General's Department, at all times and at its absolute discretion, reserves the right to remove offensive comments from the National Human Rights Online Consultation. For your reference, any comments/messages that are offensive for the online consultation would include any or all of the following:

  • breach of privacy
  • defamatory content
  • profane content
  • risk of contempt of court
  • racial and religious hatred/vilification
  • confidentiality concerns



  1. Bayne MacGregor

    May 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Not even remotely

     Inequality is at the heart of any human rights violation and australia has plenty of inequality.

     When one religions prayers are opening our goverments activities but not those of all the rest of the religions present in this country, not even the traditional beliefs of it's indiginous peoples there can be no argument that inequality is ever-present. The Human Rights of those of other faiths or no religious beliefs are disregarded in such an act.

    When couples are treated differently under the law based on their sexual orientation.

    Where Transsexuals must be sterilised and lose any reproductive rights in order to be treated as equal citizens without constant discrimination, and who often have great trouble getting ordinary medical treatment.

    Where extreme irreversible and often regreted genital altering surgeries are allowed on Intersex babies.

    Where many employments uniform rules go against peoples whose religious faith require certain aspects of clothing or whose culture or subculture involve piercings tattoos and the like.

    Where establishents dress codes are allowed to discriminate against cultural and subcultural dress.

    And thats just a tiny hint of some of the big and the small issues that effect significant numbers of people in this country because inequality, double-standards, priviliging the popular and ignoring or discriminating against the rest is constant and ignored in Australia.

    With better human rights protection and promotion rather than generation-long battles for the Australian ideal of 'a fair go for all' for each group on each little part of the inequalities they are faced with these issues could be dealt with more easilly, more fairly and future legislations consider human rights in their drafting.

    A fair go for all is still just a dream and not yet a reality. With better human rights protections we could be a lot closer to fulfilling that dream.

    • just_curious

      May 21, 2009 at 1:20 am

      why led by a priest?

      This site was recommended by a friend and as soon as i looked at it i was immediately turned off from having my say as it is being led by a priest (of some sort). I understand that everyone should have the right to choose their own religion, but why choose a priest of one particular faith to run this "diverse and independent" public forum?

      To be truly independent such a forum should not be led by a priest (which is a spokesperson and promoter) of any particular religion.

      I am sure I am not the only one who walked away from this site. I am very curious to know if the priest (Father) is gaining anything personally (or for his particular religion) from the taxes of Australian citizens.

      A bit more transparency would be appriecated.


      • sally.rose

        May 21, 2009 at 7:29 am

        To Just Curious


        Fr Frank is leading the forum because he's the Chair of the National Human Rights Consultation Committee. 

        Please don't be put off sharing your views because you disagree with some of his, that would defeat the whole point! Point being to gather public views, (If you want to know more about the Committee you can go to

        If you don't speak up – you won't be heard. So please come back and leave your responses to the questions about human rights.


        Open Forum | Blogger-in-Chief

      • RichardB43

        June 5, 2009 at 12:16 am

        If you want transparency, then share your views.

        You conculded – "A bit more transparency would be appriecated. "

        How about the transparency of sharing your views with us ?

        I suspect you'll be one of those sulking away claiming that they were not consulted, yet you have shunned an opportuntity to share your views.

        Do you not see how ridiculuous that is !

    • RichardB43

      June 5, 2009 at 12:38 am

      Majorities have rights to express themselves too.

      I agree with most of your points, but take exception to one.

      You said "When one religions prayers are opening our goverments activities but not those of all the rest of the religions present in this country, not even the traditional beliefs of it's indiginous peoples there can be no argument that inequality is ever-present. The Human Rights of those of other faiths or no religious beliefs are disregarded in such an act. "

      What you seem to be asking for here is a right of minority religions to stop majority religions from practicing in the open. How does that reflect a tolerant, respectful, multi-cultural society.

      I fail to see how the rights of other religions are violated by parliament commencing with a fairly generic prayer to one God. The same God shared by most of the world's major religions. And not denying any other religion, or the rights of people to practice other religions, or none.

      This is the same ridiculous argument that says kids can't celebrate Christmas at school because that might offend others. Heck, they celebrate Christmas in Japan even. By now it is a universal secular celebration, celebrating a spirit of peace and goodwill to all. Yet somehow we are not allowed to celebrate it publicly here in Australia.

      I am personally an agnostic, going on atheist. But I don't take offence in other people practicing their beliefs, so long as they do no harm to others.

      Further, on the Lord's Prayer said in Parliament. This prayer derives from one branch of Christian religion. But Christian religions in this country have learnt to put aside old divisions and accept the differences between themselves, and I don't think the Lord's prayer in parliament is objected to by Catholics and other Christians for whom it is not part of their religious doctrine. That is the kind of tolernace and respect we should be expecting in this country between religions. Not that people in majority religions should stop practicing in the open.

       By all means, strengthen and defend the rights of other religions to practice openly, and to be respected. But also maintain that right for majority religions too. If and when there is no longer a majority in parliament or in the country for saying the Lord's prayer, then it should cease. But not just because some minority fanatics happend to assert that it is disrespectful to them.

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 5, 2009 at 11:24 am

        How is there freedom when just one religion gets heard?

        I never said anything aginst any religion practicing openly. And which religion is largest at the time should give them no extra priviliges nor free advertising. Not in any country that resoects religious liberty or equality or fairness!

        "I fail to see how the rights of other religions are violated by parliament commencing with a fairly generic prayer to one God."

        How can you fail to see that? What about the Hindus in this country? The Taoists? The Bhuddists?

         "The same God shared by most of the world's major religions."

        Just how many Hindu are there again? And Aboriginal Indiginous Beliefs count for nothing? The whole point of EQUAL is ignored when the current popularity of the Abrahamic faiths is used to sideline the rest. Besides a jewish prayer to the god of abraham is rather different from the lords prayer to Jesus!

        "And not denying any other religion, or the rights of people to practice other religions, or none."

        If that were so then every religions prayers would be read, not just one which gets special favourable treatment! How can special treatment be considered equal?

        If you seriously want equality, real freedom of religioon, then either every faith gets a turn and atheists too or no-one. I'm fine with everyone so I'm not for banning open practice of religion.

         But till a Wiccan prayer opens parliament, or a Tibetan Bhuddist prayer then we dont have religious freedom, we have the preferential treatment of some religions over others. Religious INequality.

        "This is the same ridiculous argument that says kids can't celebrate Christmas at school because that might offend others. Heck, they celebrate Christmas in Japan even. By now it is a universal secular celebration, celebrating a spirit of peace and goodwill to all. Yet somehow we are not allowed to celebrate it publicly here in Australia."

        Well christmas was celebrated by pagans for centuries before christ, the name Easter is taken from the Pagan Goddess whose festival as taken up by christians. Sure we can have secular christmas in schools without religious indoctrination, or alternatively with unbiased teaching about the various religious traditions of christmas. Same with Easter and all the rest.

        Come on! Your trying to tell me a double-standard is fair?

        Whose saying we should stop christians from having a right to express themselves?

        It sure aint me!

        Christianity can survive having to treat other religions as equals just as christians can survive treating non-christians as equals. No difference. There is nothing unjust about fairness.

        Let a Jewish prayer open parliament next time, or a Muslim, or a Wiccan, or a bhuddist, or an indiginous pre-christian ceremony, or a secular humanist athiest read a poem on ethics.

        It's their country too!

         It's their parliament too!

        • mbandrews

          June 11, 2009 at 7:55 am

          Equal dignity doesn’t mean equal choice

          Once, equality before the law meant that you got the same treatment whether you're a man or a woman, a jew or a gentile, old or young, rich or poor.

          Somehow most of these posts assume that equality is the about choice. This is some consumerist utopia. Having the right to determine your own gender, what to do with your body, how to express your sexuality.

          That's certainly not what equality means to me.

          And it wasn't what equality meant to the framers of the great documents of human dignity. From Ben Franklin to John Locke, right back to the books of Moses which insist that we welcome "the stranger in the land."

          Fixating on choice will, eventually, actually undermine human dignity. In the UK at the moment, an anglo-indian man with a 30 year career as a nurse has been fired by a government agency. His sin? He made a Christian statement in a role-play exercise. In the exercise, a depressed patient said she didn't know what to do to lift her spirits. The nurse said that he'd go to church. Next thing he was fired.

          So there's the problem. You put a premium on choice, then you put a premium on not trying to affect people's choices, then you see people not being able to express their humanity.

          Part of human dignity is being able to express your faith in God. For this man, that includes sharing his faith. If you say to a Christian "you can be a Christian but you can't promote it" then you're actually stopping him from being a Christian. Historical Christianity is an outreaching faith.

          Capitalism is a good market system. But it's a lousy philosophical system. I don't want to see the Western obsession with choice to become a foundation to our human rights.

          • Bayne MacGregor

            June 12, 2009 at 4:18 am

            Of course it’s about choice!

            Choice is at the absolute heart of Human Rights. It's Equality of Liberty. Liberty defined and boundered by the equality of others.

            Laws exist validly on the basis of protecting rights. We have road rules to fulfill our obligation to others right to not have you killthem with your car. But we still have lots of choice over what car we drive and where we drive it to.

            And here we go again with the nurse thing. So either a court made a decision in error (which always happens, all institutions make mistakes including elected representataives, courts and the voting public too!) or there are details left out of the mentioning of the case as for how it went against peoples rights.

            You don't think equality = choice? Sure First try these pieces of Equality with people I know:

            First lets give Goths preferential treatment for a decade and throw you from a business for not being a Goth, then we'll call DOCS on you for not being a Goth. That way you'll have the experiences they go through. And it will be fair because you choose not to be a goth. That would be equal no?

            Then we'll have doctors refuse you serious treatment for your 'choice' of not being a Transexual. Or because of the doctors choice of religion! That way you can be equal to another friend of mine.

            Then we'll have you given a sex-change by force like an intersex infant who is given no choice either. Have your genitals what ever form they are surgically and irreversibly altered without consent. Then you'd be nice and equal.

            Wouldn't like that?

            Then Rights are about choice.

            Freedom of Religion = Choices!

            Freedom of Speech = Choices!

            Freedom of Assembly = Choices!

            Freedom of Political Activity = Choices!

            Freedom to Decline Medical Treatment = Choices!

            Freedom to Marry Only By Consent = Choices!

            Freedom to Choose Who You Marry = Choices!

            Want me to go on through most of the listed Rights in UN Declerations? Because most rights involve choices!

            Now you mention choices regarding sexuality. Square that with the brain studies showing that sexuality involves brain differences!

            You mention it regarding sex-change. Square that with the science showing not only brain differences in transsexuals brains but also the Australian discovery of a genetic component to them!

            So, if we go by your definition that equality is based not on choice then the following would be true:

            Equal Rights for Gays, Lesbians and Transsexuals (maybe not on the rest of transgender people like me as the studies are yet to be done on us) MUST be protected as it's not a choice but scientific biological reality.

            Rights of Religious belief don't exist at all as religion is a choice.

            But If I'm right and Rights do mean Equal Choice then:

            Gays and Transsexuals still get their rights anyways. But Goths and other Transgender people do too.

            Religious faith also is a right.

            So you are pro-choice or your willing to give up your freedom to be christian! And your right to promote religion is a private right, meaning you can do it in public in your free time to people who can choose to listen or choose to walk away. Definately a patient should have the freedom to have access to religious materials and rituals of any faith if they so wish, but not to be subjected to evangelising if they do not wish. Again Choice is key.

            So now I have shown that choice is needed for human rights especially for protecting freedom of religion which will inevitably be equality for all choices of religion then will you join the call for human rights? Just ask that freedom of religion needs to be strong.

            You'll have to put up with other religions being equal but logically it's all religions are free or none are.

            And because of science on sexuality and gender your just going to have to deal with equality with that too. But freedom of choice allows it too. So it's religious freedom AND sexuality and gender freedom or its no religious freedom but STILL sexuality and gender freedom.

            So then which shall it be? No right of choice and Gays and Transsexuals win equality anyway or Yes theres a right of choice and at least you get to keep your right to choose religion?

  2. Fr Frank Brennan

    May 21, 2009 at 6:55 am

    What do human rights and responsibilities mean to you?

    At our Community Roundtables across the country when we ask the question, 'are human rights and responsibilities sufficiently protected and promoted?' we have largely heard responses similar to Bayne MacGregor's resounding, 'Not even remotely!' But then our discussions have largely focused on human rights and not much on responsibilities. What do you think responsibilities entail? When you hear the word 'responsibilities' do you think of the responsibility you have as an individual to protect the rights of others? As an individual to refrain from impinging the rights of others? Do you think of the responsibility government has in refraining from impinging your human rights, protecting your human rights or providing remedies for human rights breaches? What do human rights and responsibilities mean to you?

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • Bayne MacGregor

      May 22, 2009 at 4:52 am

      my initial thoughts on responsibility

      I think we all have a responsibility to defend the rights of others and respect their choices for themselves.

      We also have a responsibility to understand rights and to learn about the issues of others.

      It's all too easy for the majority to blithely go along feelling safe and secure without huan rights protection when they don't need it at the time. Those who do, the marginalised, the unpopular, the vulnerable.. their problems are often dismissed or ignored or go unreported or underreported. Or to think that because effected groups are small they don't matter or worse that the majority should not have to be put out by being fair to them or adjusting to their needs.

      Enshrining anti-discrimination laws on a federal level in the most inclusive and specific way possible and covering all known discriminated groups specifically but stating clearly that all discrimination is wrong and the groups/catagories listed are included but not limited to them alone would do much to ensure these responsibilities are carried out more often.

       Public Education is a neccessary component for people to understand the rights and what they mean.

      Another responsibility is fair representation. Our television and other media does not reflect the diversity of our nation, ethnicly, culturally, religiously, politically, sexually or any other factor. Their needs to be ways to ensure that media is not just not-discriminatory but also representative.

      The same is true of corporations and companies.

      Too often a company is treated as if it was a person with a persons rights. Instead I suggest that a corporation doesn't have a persons rights but that as a part of the economic system of society it has a responsibility, an obligation, to the people and their rights. So strengthening anti-discrimation legislation on a federal level in both employment and service would greatly help.

    • DanDare

      May 29, 2009 at 5:58 am

      Responsibilities are not coinage

      Much of the discussion I have seen where "responsibilities" get included in discussion of rights result in a concept that rights have to be "earned" by fulfilling responsibilities.

      I would assert that that concept easily voids any and all rights and should not be considered. Rights are a form of protection against the tyranny of the majority and no mechanism should exist to take them away.

      Responsibilities could be discussed seperately from rights. I doubt that we can legislate a general set of responsibilities, since such are very situationally dependant. There are requirements that we must fulfill by law, such as voting. We also have a responsibility to vote wisely but that could never be enforced or even defined.

      Responsibilities should not be included in this discussion. They are not coinage. They are a seperate and much more complex issue than the issue of rights.

      • RichardB43

        June 5, 2009 at 12:51 am

        Rights and Responsibilities are inextricably intertwined

        Recognising Rights for some people automatically imposes responsibilities on other people to act accordingly.

        So it is pointless to try to separate the discussion of the two.

        And I haven't seen anyone try to argue that people's right should be taken away just because they don't fulfil their responsibilties. Though that does come out in the consideration of balancing the confliciting rights of different people.

        But education about rights should definitely be balanced with education about responsibilties too. We see far too many cases where people are happy to assert their Rights, without wanting to accept that they also have responsiblities. (Particularly my kids when they were young teenagers, being taught at school all about their Rights, but completely forgetting about their responsiblities, and trying to assert their rights, without respecting other pople's rights).

        Over emphasising Rights over responsiblities seems to lead to a greater conflict in society, and the domination of the less assertive by the more assertive. The kind of society where if I look at someone a little strangely I have violated their rights, and they seem to think they then have the right to beat me up.

        Rights and responsibilities have to go together. Rights in isolation are not worth anything.

        • Bayne MacGregor

          June 5, 2009 at 11:29 am

          Examples of Responsibilites?

          I have a couple but I'd like to hear more if there are more.

          1. The responsibility to respect others equal rights.

          2. The responsibility to defend others equal rights when the rights of some are unprotected, attacked, violated or treated as unequal.

          I think thats all of them. But I could be wrong. Got any more?

    • Chris Baulman

      June 10, 2009 at 4:00 am

      Rights & Responsibilities


      As globalisation proceeds, low skilled jobs will move to low wage economies. This process will accelerate until a balance of incomes and employment opportunities exists throughout the world. While this is a good thing, it also means that unemployment will be evenly spread.

      It is inconceivable that the current welfare provisions will be sustainable, yet people have a right to life. While even dumb animals can feed and shelter themselves, we have been made entirely reliant on the economy for our very survival. This limits our ability to make free and democratic choices, putting undue economic conditions on the right to life itself.

      A market economy, for all its benefits, tends to commodify everything. Fundamentally the economy has totally commodified all land by which people traditionally might feed and shelter themselves, whatever their skill level. This commodification has also led to an unsustainable neglect of responsibilities to the land, because the market place determines interactions with the land rather than the principles of human rights and responsibilities.

      By specifying exactly what one's responsibilities would be in using the land to feed and shelter oneself, we would see there was plenty of sustainable work to do for anyone wishing to take up their right and responsibilities. Regardless of skill levels, with the proper support people could be much better able to look after their wellbeing.

      The government is the only body capable of maintaining this opportunity. Centrelink, Dept of Housing and TAFE are already set up with the necessary structures for support and accountability in regard to rights and responsibilities.

      One additional element needed to help participants be successful is a self management system to keep the individual in charge of their rights and responsibilities, free to collaborate and knowing exactly what to do next to succeed. Easy access to that knowledge and process in a way that empowers is what NTW is providing at , so even when people have no prior knowledge or experience they will feel empowered. With that support, the powerful motivation to secure a stable home can be productive in creating NTW.

      For anyone who would exercise their right for its intended purpose of feeding and sheltering themselves in the most sustainable ways known, we need to describe the right to land and the responsibilities that go with that right. Only then will it be possible to protect rights, provide free and democratic choice and restore social, economic and environmental balance.

    • Brett Paatsch

      June 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm

      Thomas Paine in 1792 in Rights of Man wrote:
      "While the Declaration of Rights was before the National Assembly, some of its members remarked, that if a Declaration of Rights was published, it should be accompanied by a Declaration of Duties. The observation discovered a mind that reflected, and it only erred by not reflecting far enough. A Declaration of Rights is, by reciprocity, a Declaration of Duties also. Whatever is my right as a man, is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee, as well as to possess."

  3. ag02

    May 25, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Protected speech?

    I'd like to know if I will still have the freedom to stand up and say that I believe certain behaviours are wrong?  Will I be able to say that other people's beliefs are wrong?  Will my freedom of speech, even if it is disagreeable, be protected?

    • Bayne MacGregor

      May 25, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      You Don’t Have That Now!

      Actually you have no legal right to free speech currently in Australia.

      Whereas with a charter of rights you will have.

      However it depends upon the interaction with the rights of others.

      Spreading lies i.e. libel and slander will likely not be protected.

      And with free-speech protections even though it would be Unethical (and therfore indefensibly wrong) to impose your own personal and/or religious moral standards over others especially those of other faiths such speech will be protected to a point. You wont be able to call for violence or discrimination against or villify people who act that way.

      So you can still speak out against mixed-race marriage, homosexuality, transgender, same-sex marriage, women in the workforce, the religious tenants of other faiths and the like you cannot lie about people or call for them to be bashed or exterminated or villify them. Just like now.

      Villification, deliberate lies i.e. slander and libel and threats of or incitement of violence are already against the law.

      But as there is no right to free speech currently your freedom to make such statements is not protected now but will be to a fair degree and fair extent with proper human rights protections that protect everyones speech equally.

      • Carkeys

        May 26, 2009 at 7:29 am

        What I want to see…
        I was under the impression that a Charter of Rights can have any content, i.e. that it may or may not protect free speech, depending on the wording of the charter. Therefore, even if the Government establishes a charter, its comprehensiveness and the level of protection it offers still depends on the wording of the charter itself. I prefer the creation of a charter in Australia because I think it offers more concrete protection, but I would be deeply disappointed if the government, after spending all this time, resources and effort, goes off and create a piece of instrument that is more symbolic than practical.

        I would like to see an instrument that can hold the authorities accountable for the decisions they make -given the huge powers they hold in and over our society, they are the ones with the primary responsibility to protect human rights. I would like to see an instrument that can effectively counter political powers so that discriminatory legislations such as TPV and the Northern Territory Intervention would never happen again.

        I would also like to see a human rights instrument that can educate all of us on human rights, including what our rights are, how to observe human rights, what constitutes as a breach of rights, and how to remedy breaches. I believe education can help foster a human rights cultural, so that one day, people would actually take it seriously when someone complains about a human rights breach. My current experience so far is that most people are only concerned about human rights when they think their own rights have been breached. The predominant thinking seems to be focused on ‘my rights’ as opposed to ‘the rights of everyone’.

        The consultation asked about responsibility – I think we all have a role to play in protecting human rights, but some have more responsibilities and abilities than others. Yes, we're all humans and we all have human rights that need to be protected equally, but we don't all have the resources and the opportunities to enforce the protection of rights. For example, policy makers make decisions on laws and policy, which impact on our society as a whole. Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, are unlikely to make decisions that can effect more than a handful of people. Given the policy makers possess so much more social and political powers than the everyday citizens, it would make sense that policy makers have a lot more responsibilities to observe the protection of human rights than the everyday citizen. I think our level of social and political powers is indicative of the extent of our responsibility to observe the protection of human rights. Having said that, I also think even the most dispossessed persons can respect the inherent rights of another person. They may not be able to protect it, but they can still do their best to not violate it.

      • ag02

        May 26, 2009 at 10:07 am

        What’s vilification?
        How is vilification defined though?  Would I get in trouble for drawing a picture of Mohammed?  If I don't a legal right, and haven't needed one, why would I need one?

        • Bayne MacGregor

          May 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm


          Going by a quick google:

          Definitions of vilification on the Web:

          • smear: slanderous defamation
          • abuse: a rude expression intended to offend or hurt; "when a student made a stupid mistake he spared them no abuse"; "they yelled insults at the visiting team"
          • In law, defamation (also called calumny, libel, slander, and vilification) is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government or nation a negative image. …

          So vilification does not mean having to obey another religions rules or cultures rules or having to conform to their tastes. It does mean though not being able to slander them, make false statements about them or make abusive or hateful comments about them.

          • ag02

            May 31, 2009 at 3:39 am

            Thanks, but if that religion

            Thanks, but if that religion is offended by say, a picture of Mohammed, is that considered slander or abuse?  And how is intent to offend or hurt defined?  By the person who made the statement or the person offended?

            How would a Charter help more than already existing defamation laws?

            • Bayne MacGregor

              May 31, 2009 at 3:55 pm

              Neither I would think

              The faith holds that Mohammad should not be pictured. But this is a religious rule. It should bind none that do not practice that religion.

              Just as rules about eating bacon don't apply to people unless their religion forbids it.

              However their are plenty of offensive names said about Muslims and others. And lying about their beliefs, missrepresenting them, falsely generalising about them too (after all there is a big difference between a Sufi and a Wahabist) would all be clearly insulting which is different.

              A charter could help by setting down the principle behind this distinction so that we needn't have to re-write the law every so many years to add a catagory of discrimination and villification that should have been protected from the start. Naming protected groups is often needed when they get excluded as somehow 'exceptions' but if we set down the basic principle well enought hen that shouldn't be so vital in the future to update.

              Besides right now there is no protection of free speech, the law could be made to go much farter than vilification and actually ban insulting or offending others just as you fear, but a clearly worded freedom of speech would protect that.

              • ag02

                June 7, 2009 at 12:56 pm

                Are you saying that

                Are you saying that offensive statements are not abuse/slander?  And how is intent to offend or hurt defined?

                "It should bind none that do not practice that religion."

                Of course not, but if they are offended by it are we still allowed to do it?  If they take it as an insult is that what matters?

                "A charter could help…"  Do you have a practical example?

                "Besides right now there is no protection of free speech, the law could be made to go much farter than vilification and actually ban insulting or offending others just as you fear, but a clearly worded freedom of speech would protect that."

                Yes, and theoretically the Queen commands Australia's army but she wouldn't dare try it.

                Would it protect like Canada's does? or this

                • Bayne MacGregor

                  June 8, 2009 at 7:57 pm


                  Note every statement that another finds offensive is slander.

                  If a person finds wearing hats offensive they cant project their personal values or personal rules onto others. Religious rules or otherwise.

                  Religious rules effect only adherants to that faith. Otherwise it abuses freedom of religion to make non-believers follow the riles of that faith.

                  So no, that someone feels upset is not the decider.

                  Going back to my hat example, were the hatless person to instead be accosted by a person in a hat who says "hey everyone, look at this hatless loser who doesn't wear hats, he beats up little old ladies because thats what hatless people do" then they have been slandered.

                  Just like I can eat bacon without crossing the line despite some faiths having it as taboo but saying people who don't eat bacon are bad people does cross the line.

                  A practical example? A charter that specifically says "slandering anothers faith or it's practitioners is wrong, acting contrary to the tenants of anothers faith is not." And then so long as i'm not making slanderous statements about jews and muslims while eating my bacon I'm fine.

                  And while Muslims may be forbidden from creating images of Mohammad I am not. But If I slander it's adherants in those images then I'm steping over the line.

                  And there is already anti-slander laws, anti-villification laws, anti-incitement laws and anti-sedition laws. So already the free speech you want to protect is already partially curtailed even without a charter.

                  As for whether ours would be like Canadas, that depends entirely on how it's written and the quality of the judges and their findings doesn't it. What is found contrary to rights in Canada is not in the U.S.A. for example.

                  • ag02

                    June 19, 2009 at 9:52 am


                    "Note every statement that another finds offensive is slander."

                    Did you mean "Not every"?

                    "So no, that someone feels upset is not the decider."

                    "In a decision dated May 30 in the penalty phase of the quasi-judicial proceedings run by the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal, evangelical pastor Stephen Boisson was banned from expressing his biblical perspective of homosexuality and ordered to pay $5,000 for "damages for pain and suffering" as well as apologize to the activist who complained of being hurt."


                    "Boisson wrote a letter to the editor of his local Red Deer, Alberta, newspaper in 2002 denouncing the advance of homosexual activism as "wicked" and stating: "Children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights.""

                    Now granted those comments are very aggressive even offensive but why should they be banned from the public arena?  And at least homosexual activists were only called ‘wicked' rather than ‘the greatest threat to the world' which Christians have been called, I think it was Richard Dawkins who said it.

                    "Besides right now there is no protection of free speech, the law could be made to go much farter than vilification and actually ban insulting or offending others just as you fear, but a clearly worded freedom of speech would protect that."

                    It didn't work in Canada.

                    "A practical example? A charter that specifically says "slandering anothers faith or it's practitioners is wrong, acting contrary to the tenants of anothers faith is not.""

                    But didn't you say that we already have laws against slander?

                    "So already the free speech you want to protect is already partially curtailed even without a charter."

                    Yes, but it would be even more so under a Charter and even though the possibility that greater restrictions can be applied there's a big difference between theory and practice.

                    "As for whether ours would be like Canadas, that depends entirely on how it's written and the quality of the judges and their findings doesn't it."

                    So are you agreeing that the example I provided about the Mohammed cartoons is valid?  Are you saying that examples from other nations charters are irrelevant? 

                    "What is found contrary to rights in Canada is not in the U.S.A. for example."

                    Do you have an example?

                    • Bayne MacGregor

                      June 19, 2009 at 3:26 pm

                      Free speech and accountability for lying
                      "Note every statement that another finds offensive is slander."

                      Did you mean "Not every"?"

                      Yes I did. My apologies for the typo.

                      "psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature "

                      To start with this person is breaking one of the ten commandments (thou shalt not bear false witness) by stating as fact something that is not fact, either from ignorance or deliberate lie.

                      Secondly to lie in a harmful manner about a group of people is slander. Something most countries have laws against already. Australia already has laws about lying about individuals and groups (such as race for example). And we already have systems that award damages based on this.

                      This person defamed a group of people with a lie.

                      "But didn't you say that we already have laws against slander?"

                      So what? My point is a charter would protect speech that currently has no protection. The government could outlaw any speech it chooses at all! It could ban ALL public discussion of religion if it wanted! A charter would protect against that!

                      "Yes, but it would be even more so under a Charter"

                      Nope. It would be LESS so. Greater freedom of the press to protect sources, less ways the governemnt could abuse anti-sedition laws… and there is no guarantee that in a single generation religious demographics couldn't shift so far that a government couldn't get away with vastly greater inroads into religious speech!

                      Your risking the future freedom to preach at all just because your worried that peoples freedom to LIE might be reduced? 

                      "So are you agreeing that the example I provided about the Mohammed cartoons is valid?"

                      IF we have proper freedom of Religion then Christians are under no obligation to follow Islamic practices and vice versa. BUT they wouldn't have the freedom to lie about the other faith or missrepresent it!

                      See the crucial difference between the two?

                      "Are you saying that examples from other nations charters are irrelevant?"

                      They are relatively relevant. There are a lot of them and a lot of variety in their wording. Some are better written than others. Some are axcted on in their system while others are useless paper-tigers with no force that the government disregards.

                      All are based on the same principles, but some are better than others and each has it's unique situations.

                      ""What is found contrary to rights in Canada is not in the U.S.A. for example."

                      Do you have an example?"

                      Gun control and universal healthcare are two examples of something you have a recognised right to in Canada but not the USA, because the USA was an early experiment in rights and democracy, and its bill is missing a huge proportion of the rights in the Universal Decleration.

                      So why are you so intent on risking all your freedom to speak just to protect people from being held accountable for lying? When they already are and maybe even moreso before long anyway?

                      Considering your concerns logically you should be in favour of a charter of rights with the strongest free speech definition and religious freedom protections possible. Preserving the current system is no guarantee at all of the current religious speech and assumes christianity will maintain susbtantial dominance, for if its grip slips it will be bereft of protection!

                      Your position runs counter to your own stated cause! If you want to protect religious speech you should swap sides and instead argue for strong speech protections in a charter of rights. You'll still have to put up with equality but thats better than risking losing everything isn't it?

                    • Bayne MacGregor

                      June 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

                      Oh by the way…

                      You still haven't responded to my question about how you see equal civil rights for Transgender, Gay Lesbian, Bisexual including same-sex marriage as being unfair. I realise it can be hard to navigate through some of these discussions as the threads are getting longer so I'll mention it here as substantially your posts often refer to the subject in some way.

                      You do realise polls show support for same-sex marriage at about 60%.. vastly higher than Church attendance… and it's well over 70% for young people.. a generational shift moving even further on this issue… sure you don't want a charter of rights to protect non-lying religious speech? I'd advise it.

                      And I'm still waiting to see how you can imagine that my being treated as an equal Australian is in anyway unfair or harms anybody else. How can Fair be Unfair? As you keep arguing that the need to be unfair to me and to all law-abiding kind and decent Australian Transgender, Gays and Lesbians is so vitally important that it's worth sacrificing protecting freedom of religion and speech for!

  4. Fr Frank Brennan

    May 27, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    Identifying our strengths

    Better protection for human rights does not necessarily mean we need to reinvent the wheel. Are there institutions in Australia that already do a good job of protecting and promoting human rights? Are there any particular strengths in our current system that could be built upon to afford better protection for human rights?

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • peterhanley1

      June 2, 2009 at 9:32 pm

      Strengths of the current system

      The treatment of Muhamed Haneef would indicate  there are some big gaps in human rights protection under the current system.

      I wonder where Muhamed Haneef would be today if someone like Peter Russo had not been his duty solicitor.

      Peter Hanley


    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 4, 2009 at 4:55 pm

      Are there any?

      We clearly have well meaning and hard working people in parts of the systems of legislation law and beauraucracy, but they are simply good people making the best of what seems to me a badly broken system when it comes to human rights.

       Certainly some of the people at HREOC (now AHRC) did their level best when they put together the Sex and Gender Diversity issues study which I as a Transgender person contributed to but the results were exceedingly inadequate because resources were stretched so thin that a group with so many issues needing to be adressed had but one issue properly focused on in the report and which has seemingly been forgotten about in the corridors of power since then. And though Comissioner Greame Innes has made several statements since then on these issues they seem to fall on deaf ears.

      In fact the response that I have had on my queries on the many issues of Sex and Gender Diverse people from those in government was simply a suggestion for me to get involved in this human rights consultation process.

      If there are strengths in the current system I haven't heard of them yet.

  5. Anonymous

    June 5, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Human Rights & Education


    I anm Martin from qld ,

    i have big confusion .

    i wrote mt ielts test here in Qut campus on 9th of may and my results where due by 22may but they extended to 25 may,then again to 27th and to 2june but still no other information about my resullts.

    as been a candidate i think i should be informed why my results is delaying or when it will be published,there is no time frame also……………..

    can any one help me in this .

    as a candidate or as a osumer who payed 240$ for the exam ,du i have the rights to know what is my results or what is the next step……………..

    • sally.rose

      June 5, 2009 at 10:56 am

      For some help with your question

      Hi Martin

      You should start by contacting the people you paid the $240 to and the institution where you sat the test.

      If you don't get any help from them, maybe ask a friend you trust to go through the paperwork with you.

      If you still need help you can visit the department of fair trading at or phone them on 13 13 04
      Monday to Friday 8 am to 6 pm for advice.

      Good luck sorting out your results


  6. Chris Baulman

    June 9, 2009 at 4:23 am

    Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

    If you believe in ‘human rights', it goes without saying that the right to live is foundational to your belief.

    This means we must have the right to get food and shelter at the very least.

    To get these basics we must either  –

    1. Steal them
    2. Demand that someone else provide them for us for free since they are our human right
    3. Rely on charity or welfare
    4. Grow our own food and build our own shelter … OR
    5. If we don't want to do that ourselves, we could exchange with someone else something of value for them to do it for us

    Although there may be some exceptions, perhaps we would agree that rights cannot be based on 1, 2 or 3.

    Can we also also reject the idea that unless we are willing to work for someone else we have no right to live?

    It should be a right for people to choose to use their own labour and creativity to grow their own food and build their own housing without having to pay anybody else anything. In fact if this right does not exist, no right does because any other claim to freedom would depend on this one.

    However, land has become a commodity and we must buy our ‘right' of access to land where we might grow food and build shelter.

    This now means we must be prepared to work for Coles, or a uranium mining company, or ultimately anywhere Centrelink legally directs us where we will be paid the money to buy our access to the essentials of life.

    Because we no longer have the right to work directly with our natural heritage, it is nonsense to assert that we have any human rights. Life itself now depends on participation in this economic model.

    In this situation, does it mean anything to say that human rights exist?

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 9, 2009 at 9:21 am

      The Disabled Can’t Always Work!

      The purpose of living in a society is for mutual benefit and the safety net that a community provides. As anyone may become sick or weak and everyone will become elderly if nothibg kills them beforehand then isn't there a point that the society exists to serve those needs and that everyone should contribute to that for when they themselves need that safety net?

      Many people are unable to work because of disability or extreme age. Surely they have a right to be supported?

    • Chris Baulman

      June 10, 2009 at 3:37 am

      Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

      Hi Bayne,

      good to meet in cyberspace!

      I would agree that if you have paid something (tax) to someone (government) for something (welfare) you have a right to it – but would you say that you have no right to live where you are born unless you become part of the society you are born into and pay tax?

      Does being born (like a bird or a fish) give you any right to live? If so, do you think a bird has a right to build a nest without paying taxes and is not required to serve any system other than nature, but a human does not have that same birthright? If you think we humans have birthrights too, what are they – air, water, sunlight, land? Of these the only one that has been completely commodified is land – you cannot build a shelter or grow food unless you are prepared to serve whatever the system is that deprived you of that birthright. If not, you will die – what does that make of so called right to free speech/ movement/ association/ whatever?

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 10, 2009 at 4:42 am

        We are part of society from birth

        Hi Chris!

        We aren't solitary brutal unsharing animals like crocodiles but beings with society that exists for mutal benefit like wolves, cows, ants, the apes or a myriad other social animals and self-aware sentient thinking rational beings with substantial capacity for reason on top of that.

        We exist as part of society from birth. Each generation contributes to the benefit and also hardship of the next generation so we all have an obligation to that, and that obligation includes goverment and law. A person need not have to pay taxes for 10 years before being considered a citizen. A child born with a disability or who is injured before completing schooling or any other such example still depends upon society for their continued existence and with societies efforts may later contribute both financially as well as socially and culturally to the community.

        Our rights are in part descriptions of the obligations of us to the society and of the society to us. In theory it's also defined by the nature of sentience as they also describe our obligations to each other knowing well that we are all both similar and different, so if we were to find other clearly sentient life they'd likely apply to them as well.

        Some suggest animals should have rights like those of other dependants not yet or at all considered capable of judgement, like those of children, the comatose etc, susbtantially dependant on ideas of degrees of sentience in animals as well as capacity for suffering. But that is a seperate issue from whether the idea of Rights best defines fairness and equity between diverse humans in a society.

        Certainly as our existence involves a degree of codependance with the ecosystem the reliable maintainance of resources for future generations is neccessarily an obligation to society and from society.

        A bird incapable of understanding complex ideas may well not need freedom of political speech, but our huge brains and individual complexity means we do.

        A society cannot demand just any oblgation on it's members and be fair. It exits to serve all its number, not just most, not just some but everyone. As we all want to benefit from society, as we in a situation of fear of starvation and unemployment would want to be assisted and given the opportunity to survive through hardship then we are all obliged to that. From roads to taxes to unemployment benefits and an aducation system these notions are already present to a point in our society so enshrining them in rights would simply mainatain the status quo, we have the privilege of unemployment protection and disability benefits now so then adding them to a charter of rights causes no change in that!

        And in fact we all have an obligation to reform sociaties inequalities, through self-interest as we may also suffer inequalities but also because our own claim to societies advantages require fairness and equality. We have an obligation to reform society to the point where we could be happy enough living as it's worst-off members. anything else is unjust. So where a person faces injustice it is in everyones interest and is also everyones responsibility to change that.

        So whether it's the unmet needs of the Homeless, Mentally Ill, disabled and the like reliant on socities role as safety-net that is currently torn and in need of patching and extending or whether it's systemic and practical injustice to Indiginous Peoples, Transgender, Gay, Lesbian, goth and other groups discriminated against everyone has an obligation to fixing these problems.

        A Charter of Rights, as strong and clear and thorough and consistent as possible, would be a powerful tool for these purposes and the best one I know of.

        • Chris Baulman

          June 11, 2009 at 3:28 am

          Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

          Hi Bayne,

          Thanks for your detailed thoughts in response to my ideas.  

          Most people would choose the benefits and obligations of the existing society, but would you say they are obliged to be part of society if they don't want any of its benefits?

          This might seem an unlikely choice, but surely it is a right.   

          This is not an attempt to claim any right to live like crocodiles as you imply, but neither would I agree that we have an obligation to live in and serve whatever society we happen to have been born with, nor any obligation to reform that society.

          We may choose to do so, and we may have a right to do so (so long as the society we support does not oppress other societies), but we still have a more fundamental right to live and to form our own independent society (so long as it does not oppress any other person or society). 

          If you think that is not so, I guess you would have no problem with war and colonisation by which one society simply replaces another and the members of the new society don't even have to say sorry. 

          However if there is a right to be independent, the question is where? If you were born here (or I would say even if you arrive here) don't you have some right to life here … or must you comply with the society that dominates in order to live?  

          I claim that in this society's system you must comply because ALL land is ‘owned' either by the conquering society's government or by private interests (including now native TITLE holders) – while air, water and sunlight are still yours by right, there is no land where you could live by right and that is the other essential element for life. 

          John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government, published in 1690 presents the classic western account of the ethics of property. (Trust you can overcome any blinding which a reference to 'God' may cause) 

          The argument runs:"God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labour. He, that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to nor could without injury take it from him.." (Locke, 1690) According to Locke this is ethical so long as the appropriation of what is held in common does not prevent there being: "…enough and as good left in common for others" (Locke, 1690) 

          So is there, three hundred years later, ‘enough and as good' left in common for others to meet their basic needs of food and shelter by right rather than by ownership?

          The resource is there … but unless you first agree to the economic system, the right to use it is denied! 

          The Australian Human Rights & Equal Opportunities Commission has gone on record as saying that; "Access to land is fundamental, and it should be determined by basic principles of human rights and social justice, rather than exclusively by market forces" (Sidoti 99: 1).

          As central to human rights as this issue is, it is not prominent in mainstream human rights discourse.

          While the UnDHR makes reference to a right to housing it is highly convoluted and much outweighed by the notion of a right to own property (United Nations, 1948). 

          The Unlikely Origins of MonopolyThe board game was originally called 'The Landlord's Game' and was patented in the U.S. in 1903 by Lizzie J Magie, a young Quaker who saw it as a way of demonstrating the problems of land ownership. 

          Henry George (1839 – 1897)
          How can a man be said to have a country where he has no right to a square inch of soil; where he has nothing but his hands, and, urged by starvation, must bid against his fellows for the privilege of using them? All men have equal rights to the use and enjoyment of the elements provided by nature. 

          Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) 
          The land, the earth God gave man for his home, sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water…. 

          Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)
          The earth is given as a common stock for us to labour and live on. 

          Chief Seattle
          The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how do you buy or sell the land? The idea is strange to us.
          If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?
          Every part of this earth is sacred to my people
          Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect.
          All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.
          We are part of the earth and it is a part of us.
          The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers.
          The wind… gives our children the spirit of life. 

          Warrunga, Aboriginal Elder
          "The earth is our provider, our mother. We can't own this land. If anything it owns us." 

          The Hopi elders of Arizona say that ‘ Hopi land is held in trust in a spiritual way for the Great Spirit' 

          We can no more own the land we walk upon than lay claim to the air we breathe. 

          Chris Sidoti – Commissioner HREOC
          "The Project (NTW) embodies a unique model for guaranteeing some basic human rights in a manner that has the potential to be both economically sustainable and environmentally sensitive."

          • Bayne MacGregor

            June 11, 2009 at 7:24 am

            Where one may effect others rights one is obliged

            Hi again Chris. 

            Hmm a right not to be part of society?

            I suppose that rationally that could make sense to be possible, though would not such a person have benefited from society in infant healthcare and education and thus from birth already received benefits from their society?

            However rights also define the points where a persons freedoms are constrained by the freedoms of others simply be the nature of each being sentiences. So a person fully choosing to exist outside of society of their own free will with no coercion or injustice driving them to do so would be free of obligations to contribute to society but not their obligation to respect the rights of others.

            In essnce they'd become a society of one, or a seperate state. Well human rights define right and wrong between nations or between one nation and the citizens of another. So surely many rights obligations would remain unchanged?

            As for invasion and colonisation, I don't agree they are valid. People belonging to a different state or culture still have full equal rights in principle and violating them remains wrong.

            I think that to have somewhere truly independant, seeing as anyones actions environmentally will have some impact on the rest of humanity on earth would require human habitation on a hypothetical new uninhabited world.. but surely while a single person may have the right to emigrate to mars and do there whatever they wish without interacting with others rights or contributing to societal obligations they wont have the power to do so as such an effort would require many people and earth resources, the former meaning that there would be a small society with full rights within it anyway and the latter requiring interacting with laws and rules and taxes etc.

            • Chris Baulman

              June 12, 2009 at 1:51 am

              Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

              Hi Bayne,

              Correct me if I get you wrong.

              I think you are agreeing that in essence, one does have a right to join society or to be independant – or presumably to choose their own level of interaction and dependance, right?

              If this is indeed a human right it should be realisable on Earth where you were born rather than having to go to Mars and establish a new society as you suggest.

              My point is not only that a person should be able to choose their level of dependance on society (including total independance) but that there should be a freedom to meet any obligations one incurs in other ways than by having to join the market place.

              Indeed as rights involve equity there is a very good argument to be made that the market place is not at all an equitable way to interact in the world.

              For all its undoubted benefits, the market place also creates winners and losers, it exploits the earth unsustainably and it impoverishes many.

              So if we do have a right to choose our level of interaction and also have an obligation to contribute fairly for the level of benefits we decide to take up, the question is what opportunity is there to do this BY RIGHT?

              To clarify my question … if you could only get air to breathe by working for a particular company it would be a non sense to say that there was any right to choose not to work for that company or to work in any way that the company doesn't value sufficiently. You would be a slave to that company because whatever other 'freedoms' you get, you have to do their bidding to get your air.

              Fortunately the air is free and no company has figured out how to bottle it yet.

              Unfortunately the land (which is just as essential to life as air) is not free – you do have to work for a company as they decree in order to get the access you need for life (food and shelter).

              So what if you have freedom of religion or whatever while you work for the company … that's not freedom at all and you have no rights!

              You say invasion and colonisation are invalid ways to establish a society. There was a society here which was based on the idea that the land owns us – that society was invaded and colonised a couple of hundred years ago.

              I am not saying that the original inhabitants own or ever owned the land, or that we newcomers have no rights here. 

              I am saying that I, a relative newcomer have a birth right to grow my food and build my shelter – that I don't have any obligation to work for the company to be able to do that. My obligation is to grow my food and build my shelter in a way that is totally respectful of the land and of other peoples' equal rights to do the same.

              It is wrong that the land has been taken over by the company, even when, in the interests of the company, most people have adopted the same company ethic of ownership as expressed in the great Australian dream of private property ownership.

              Human rights place limits on any subservient legal right to 'own' land.

              John Locke’s Second Treatise on Civil Government, published in 1690 presents the classic western account of the ethics of property.  The argument runs:“God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labour. He, that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to nor could without injury take it from him..” (Locke, 1690) According to Locke this is ethical so long as the appropriation of what is held in common does not prevent there being: “…enough and as good left in common for others” (Locke, 1690)  So is there, three hundred years later, ‘enough and as good’ left in common for others to meet their basic needs of food and shelter by right rather than by ownership? The resource is there … but the RIGHT to use it is denied ! (unless of course you get so fully dedicated to the company that you can afford to buy your 'right')

              • Bayne MacGregor

                June 12, 2009 at 4:34 am

                looking closely…

                Lets us consider an extreme hypothetical to show why something may not be a right even though we can imagine it as one.

                A person wants to be an axe murderer, their right to act how they wish would allow them to wield an axe. But the right of others to decline consent over any mutual touch means they need a willing victim. If they find a willing victim capable of giving informed consent (which is unlikely as even euthanasia advocates are unlikely to be happy with an axe) then it would no longer be murder would it?

                Hence there can be no right to murder, rape, abuse children etc. All our rights incur obligations to respecting the rights of others. So as long as ones actions may impact on the environment one will have at least some obligations to society (and I'm sure you agree that would mean companies have obligations to their employees rights and the rest of society).

                However as you say: "but that there should be a freedom to meet any obligations one incurs in other ways than by having to join the market place."

                Well indeed! That would make sense. And I'm sure many disabled and retired people who do volunteer work do just that.

                To resolve that problem non-commercial ways to contribute that enables survival while helping society sufficiently to make practicable the benefits relied on would be good.

                But the ability to withdraw from society alltogether when just on carbon let alone animal extinction, deforestation, water and soil salt levels etc would mean the choices of non-citizens would still impact citizens and vice versa surely there isn't a way to succeed from the community so easilly?

                • Chris Baulman

                  June 13, 2009 at 2:17 am

                  Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

                  Hi Bayne,

                  I'm not sure what a right to breathe the air, drink the rainwater, grow your own food and erect your own shelter has to do with axe murderers, but we do seem to have agreed that "that there should be a freedom to meet any obligations one incurs in other ways than by having to join the market place." … and "to resolve that problem non-commercial ways to contribute that enables survival while helping society sufficiently to make practicable the benefits relied on would be good".

                  You say that some people can do this through volunteering etc – but do you know that only those who are considered redundant to the primary commercial agenda can do this? Sure, anyone can volunteer, but only some can enable their survival by volunteering (those redundant to the commercial interests)- ie only they can satisfy their 'mutual obligations' in non commercial volunteering and in return they get the means to survival (welfare or benefits).

                  But if only some are rightly allowed to do this, what happes to the equal right of others who, according to Centrelink, MUST participate in commercial ways? If not, they will lose their means to survival and will die.

                  How does it come to this?  Because the only other option, the land has been commodified and so one cannot grow food or build shelter for oneself (of course while respecting environmental obligations). One MUST therefore rely on Centrelink/ charity/ picking out of garbage bins OR (and this is the underlying enforced agenda which can be enforced because our right to the land has been stolen) on commitment to the market … ergo Rights? – only if you don't look too closely! Have a careful look at for a way through which would not threaten the great Australian dream or jobs or the rights of others or the environment but would enhance them.

                  • Bayne MacGregor

                    June 13, 2009 at 5:07 am

                    Where rights meet rights some things are conditional

                    My point was that as each persons rights are bordered by obligations to other peoples rights some things aren't actually possible. One cannot have a right to be an active axe-murderer was my example. So as a human cannot live in a way that does not have at least some effect on others they remain obligedto society and society obliged to them.

                    Elsewhere here the spurious argument was made that the valid reasoning for the rights of transgender people to be free from unjust discrimination would somehow mean one could not discriminate against paedophiles by a poster who seems intent that human rights not be protected in Australia specifically in order to maintain inequality and injustice and unfairness in order to maintain the overprivilege of some groups and maintain the unjust discrimination against others, and they aren't the only commentator to do so. An easilly demolished pile of nonsense as my being transgender causes no harm to others rights whereas child abusers by definition abuse.

                    So it'simportant to show that rights do not allow such abuses but correctly defines greater justice.

                    Now you suggest that the Right to Work, to seek gainful employment free from discrimination etc, should like the right to Culture and Religion have also a right to not work like the right not to follow ones cultural practices or the right to not have a religion.

                    So long as ones obligations to society are sufficiently fulfilled that theoretically makes sense. However the question of practicality comes in.

                    After all we have road-rules and other laws we are obliged to follow in order to protect  our right not to be killed by others choice of speed at which to drive their car. The right to a fair system of laws that do not discriminate but protect our rights is appropriate and neccessary.

                    An Athiest not following any religion harms no-one. A person suddenly succeeeding from our current economic system by limiting or reducing their social contribution or where they may do volunteer work another otherwise would be paid for and thus leaving another unemployed might indeed be considered harm, if many did it certainly would! But reforming that system to minimise those impacts and enable the excercise of such a right and the fulfilling of obligations to society without harming others may be possible… but it could require a dramatic re-organisation of economic systems in order to be able to do so fairly and without harming the rights of others.

                    Ah, but what about the existing not-for-profit system? Where organisations exist with minimally paid staff to do work for the community without being profitable corporations or bussinesses?

                    Doesn't that meet the need?

                    We have (and need) systems with which to distribute resources and materials and services through society. Indeed they may need reform or adjustment. Perhaps even substantially, I din't know. Certainly they require regulation from environmental impact to anti-discrimination legislations. I doubt however that environmentally we can just throw out the right to own property or throw open crown land to whoever wishes to rip down the trees to put in a house and a crop of wheat. Because of the impact on the rights of others.

                    Increasing public housing, community gardens, locally grown produce etc however would all be quite possible with minimal impact to the rights of others in most circumstances.

                    • Chris Baulman

                      June 15, 2009 at 4:24 am

                      Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

                      Hi again Bayne,

                      Yes I'm sure that arrangements could easily be made to allow people to do voluntary work in their neighbourhoods. Such Centrelink arrangements in fact already exist with approved NFP community organisations, but only for unemployed people over 55 (people considered redundant by Centrelink) – problem is, it is seen as a Centrelink/concession, not as a right.

                      People under 55 don't get the right to contribute to society for the benefits they receive in any way that is not part of the business model.

                      For this to be corrected, for peoples' right to feed and house themselves (within sound and reasonable accountability, equality, health, environmental and land use restrictions that should apply to all), the right has to be recognised as a human right (Chris Sidoti HREOC and many others say it is a right) – then mutual obligations requirements need to be made consistent with that right.

                      This could lead to the development of a new community/ neighbourhood/ environmental option which was capable of being expanded to meet any future need for work and to develop as yet undreamed technological advances.

                      It needn't mean an end to private property as you fear, just that private property 'rights' should respect the fundamental right we have to feed and house ourselves, whether we work for the system or not.

                      And of course if we call on that right, the obligation we would have to use that right for its purpose only – grow food, build our shelter in accordance with equitable regulations and even more onerously to do it in an environmentally sustainable way!

                      No need to worry about the private market being over taken by people wanting to take up such a right AND its obligations. In fact, anyone with an income over around $240pw would already have exhausted their right – generating more than $240pw or so (let alone what it is then spent on) would already take up more than your rightful share of land.

                      So we are only talking about some unemployed people who would choose to fulfil the obligations that go with such a right rather than work in the market place.

                      I would choose that – perhaps you would too – perhaps we should start together? … but we would remain a minority. The 'system' and private owners/ renters would have nothing to fear and everything to gain from the revitalisation that would come from such developments in their neighbourhood.


  7. dctipping

    June 10, 2009 at 3:13 am

    On the second question, 2)

    On the second question, 2) Are human rights sufficiently protected and promoted?:

    Q. Could it be understood that the very basic fundamental principles underpinning the United Nations system of human rights are the very ones that all Australians have, or have had explicitly since 1948? Q. Could it in fact be that all human rights should have been adequately protected and promoted upon the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

    Q. Also, in fact since John Locke's natural rights and the English Bill of Rights (1689) come before the UN human rights in time, could it be understood that these rights to life, liberty, health and property seem to be the more important ones, in giving effect to the rule of law in Australia today? Q. In the words of the NSW Bar Association, could "every piece of legislation, regardless of the intention of Parliament, need to be judged" according to natural rights standards?

    Q) The alternative scenario seems to me, that by extension of arguments put forth previously, could we already be obligated to do much more on human rights protection and promotion than we currently do?

    I guess these are questions for a constitutional lawyer to answer. I feel it is not clear that the government's duties and obligations under the social contract with the citizenry are declared. Q. Should it not be then the task of government to make a declaration of rights and freedoms in each domain of governance?

    It would seem reasonable that the Government should state explicitly what exactly its' understanding is, of its' obligations and duties to the Australian people.

    • Chris Baulman

      June 10, 2009 at 4:13 am

      Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!

      Hi dctipping,

      Because we no longer have the right to work directly with our natural heritage, it seems to me to be nonsense to assert that we have any human rights.

      Life itself now depends on participation in this economic model. Does it mean anything to say that human rights exist? 

      John Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government, published in 1690 presents the classic western account of the ethics of property.  

      The argument runs:"God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labour. He, that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to nor could without injury take it from him.." (Locke, 1690) 

      According to Locke this is ethical so long as the appropriation of what is held in common does not prevent there being: "…enough and as good left in common for others" (Locke, 1690) 

      So is there, three hundred years later, ‘enough and as good' left in common for others to meet their basic needs of food and shelter by right rather than by ownership?

      The resource is there … but unless you first agree to the economic system, the right to use it is denied! 

      The Australian Human Rights & Equal Opportunities Commission has gone on record as saying that; "Access to land is fundamental, and it should be determined by basic principles of human rights and social justice, rather than exclusively by market forces" (Sidoti 99: 1).

      As central to human rights as this issue is, it is not prominent in mainstream human rights discourse.

      While the UnDHR makes reference to a right to housing it is highly convoluted and much outweighed by the notion of a right to own property (United Nations, 1948). 

      The Unlikely Origins of  Monopoly
      The board game was originally called 'The Landlord's Game' and was patented in the U.S. in 1903 by Lizzie J Magie, a young Quaker who saw it as a way of demonstrating the problems of land ownership. 

      Henry George (1839 – 1897)
      How can a man be said to have a country where he has no right to a square inch of soil; where he has nothing but his hands, and, urged by starvation, must bid against his fellows for the privilege of using them?

      All men have equal rights to the use and enjoyment of the elements provided by nature. 

      Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) 
      The land, the earth God gave man for his home, sustenance, and support, should never be the possession of any man, corporation, society, or unfriendly government, any more than the air or water…. 

      Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)
      The earth is given as a common stock for us to labour and live on. Chief SeattleThe President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land.

      But how do you buy or sell the land? The idea is strange to us.

      If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

      Every part of this earth is sacred to my people Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect.All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

      We are part of the earth and it is a part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The wind… gives our children the spirit of life. 

      Warrunga, Aboriginal Elder
      "The earth is our provider, our mother. We can't own this land. If anything it owns us." 

      The Hopi elders of Arizona say that ‘ Hopi land is held in trust in a spiritual way for the Great Spirit'  We can no more own the land we walk upon than lay claim to the air we breathe.

      Is there any practical solution? I believe there is …

      • Brett Paatsch

        June 10, 2009 at 7:50 pm

        No human rights are not sufficiently protected in Australia

        Australians are inevitably part of the wider world of human beings and the rights of any one Australian are either the responsibilities of other Australians (or other human being generally) or they effectively do not exist.

        Of particular concern is that Australian Governments of the day, desiring to stay on-side with international “allies” such as the government of the United States of America, face great pressures to horse trade the human rights of Australians detained by officers of the United States.

        I want the right to habeas corpus, and the right not to be murdered or tortured by the United States of America or its agents.  These most basic rights ought not be at the discretion of Parliament or the Federal Cabinet meeting in camera or a Minister alone – the time frames of these decision makers all tend too much to the short term – these basic rights ought have for their defense the additional line of appeal to Australian Federal courts – they should therefore be in the Constitution as part of a Bill of Rights.

        No Prime Minister should have the discretion to sacrifice these most basic rights of Australian citizens out of political considerations aimed at appeasing a foreign government that has separate national interests of its own and in whom Australians have no representatives.

        In the absence of any rational basis for having confidence in the rule of law as opposed to the rule of arbitrary men; that is, in a world in which United States Presidents have political immunity for conspicuously ordering illegal invasions occasioning mass murder (Iraq March 19 2003), I also want -in THAT WORLD – the right to make chemical weapons in my kitchen, biological weapons in my bathroom and nuclear weapons in my garage.  I want, in short to have it acknowledged by my fellow Australians, that one human being has a RIGHT, as distinct from a CAPACITY to defend him or herself against arbitrary and unjust detention without habeas corpus, murder or torture when the existing mechanisms are clearly inadequate because body politics won’t protect their members in a sufficiently timely manner and governments like the United States of America remain at large in the world, and Australian Governments don’t dare face them down.

    • George Williams

      June 11, 2009 at 2:22 am

      International human rights

      Since the second world war, international law has increasingly dealt with how nations treat their citizens. This shift was heralded when the charter of the United Nations was adopted in 1945. Article 1 set out the aims of the United Nations as including cooperation "in promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all." This was given more detailed expression in 1948 when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed unanimously by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

      Australia has ratified many international treaties setting out fundamental rights, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. But, as Chief Justice Sir Harry Gibbs stated in Kioa v West in 1985,"treaties do not have the force of law unless they are given that effect by statute." At the federal level, apart from anti-discrimination legislation, that has generally not occurred. This means that if a person's international human rights are breached in Australia there is no way to have this redressed under Australian law.

      Professor George Williams
      University of New South Wales

      • Brett Paatsch

        June 15, 2009 at 4:59 am

        “treaties do not have the force of law….

        unless they are given that effect by statute".

        What an absurd state of affairs we currently have then.

        If a majority of people can tolerate that degree of dissonance in public policy then everything is up for grabs.  How could one rationally trust a jury (or parliamentarians) composed of citizens drawn from a population whose standards of logical consistency are so low?

        The cause of establishing rights on a rational footing in Australia seems to need more disatisfied revolutionaries of the John Brown variety that crystalise firm positions and less gentle academics. Two hundred years from now it might have been better if we had a revolution this year rather than another discussion that didn't get through the concentration span of the "I'm alright thanks Jack majority". 

  8. truce

    June 11, 2009 at 1:08 am

    Human Rights Issues Start with China

    Kevin udd's love affair with China (for starters, contemplating selling Aussie resources to China). We want nothing to do with such a regime. We might as well sell our resources to an apartheid government.  What did China do to the mothers of the children they murdered 20 years ago?  They threw them into jail. ater some of them were released but there is still a large number locked up.  For what? For wanting to grieve publicly for their children.  And that is just one of China appalling crimes against humanity.

    • Brett Paatsch

      June 15, 2009 at 5:18 am

      Isn’t it obvious that Australians must start here in Australia?

      Here is where we are. There is where we aren't.

      If one wants to think global and work top down on human rights then one needs to recognize the need for a rule of law that applies to all. And the most dangerous underminers of such a scheme are the most conspicuous ones – I'd place that mantle around the United States not China.

      The United Nations Charter essentially is the hub of international law because its provisions and the extent of commitment from the widest number of national stake holders make it so.

      • Bayne MacGregor

        June 15, 2009 at 5:57 am

        Australia’s been Hypocritical

        Australia fought for the UN decleration for the world, but skipped appying it to ourselves.

        We've singed heaps of treaties, then didn't apply them to ourselves.

        We've condemned the human rights failures of other countries, then whined like babies when our own are pointed out.

        If we are going to tell other countries what to do we have to walk the walk ourselves. And we haven't been!

        • Brett Paatsch

          June 15, 2009 at 6:20 am

          Personally, I am not satisfied that Prime Ministers

          can beach the terms of important documents like the UN Charter and just shrug it off with "if the public don't like what I do, then they can vote for someone else".

          The UN Charter is about stopping aggressive invasions (ie mass murder).

          Supporting the undermining of that general prohibition (and the principle behind it) ought be regarded as war crime not something that leads only to the mild sanction of being replaced at the electoral booth.

          What cause of action could better incite the desperation of terrorism than to hypocritically undermine the global agreements against starting wars and torturing and then claim political immunity?


  9. Gallagher

    June 16, 2009 at 4:11 am

    Working for the dole in contravention of Article 8 3(a) of ICCPR

    I applaud the good works of Mission and its "Social Enterprise transforming the lives of those excluded from the labour market", however I cannot help feeling that the left hand knows not what the right hand is doing re Mission's employment services, and its broad brush, lowest common denominator approach to unemployed people is in itself contributing to the marginalisation and exclusion of some. I consider myself to be one of these.I believe that Mission Employment's staff have singled me out for "cruel and unusual punishment' because I have confused them       I believe the rights of unemployed Australians are being violated by the work for the dole scheme as administered by the Australian Job Network (An Australian Government Initiative!). Having read a case heard by the ILO regarding a young Australian woman who refused to work for the dole (CCPR/C/85/D/1036/2001. (Jurisprudence)), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, I can reach no other conclusion that the Australian Government is in contravention of the ILO covenant, despite having ratified it. I have personally have had a rough trot regarding work for the dole as my Job Network agency (Mission Employment, Toowoomba Queensland) seems to have targeted me for ‘special treatment' because I have not worked since February 2005 when I accepted a voluntary redundancy package from the Australian Tax Office where I worked as a small business GST/income tax adviser. Since that time I have completed a BA which I started when I was a tax officer, made an attempt at a Grad Dip Ed (teaching young children is not my forte), and last year completed my honours year in International Relations, graduating with first class honours. However, despite having only been "unemployed" since the end of the academic year, I was told by the Mission work for the dole coordinator that "I needed to work for the dole". I ask why, and she said that I had been unemployed for "too long", a sentiment reiterated by other Mission staff I have encountered. I explained that I have been in full-time study since leaving the tax office, but it appears this was not good enough, and the only thing that really counted was paid employment. I have since been placed in a Lifeline op-shop where I was to "learn new skills and demonstrate that I could turn up to work on time. The "skills" included attaching price tags to second hand clothes, sort through donations, and serve at the counter, and when I expressed an opinion that this was "beneath me" and certainly added nothing to my resume, I was told that if I wanted to continue collecting unemployment benefits I would just have to do as I was told. The op-shop work for the dole placement finished when Mission "set me up" in a job as an assistant to a graphic designer, an area in which I possess literally negative skills as I an totally useless at the visual arts and other spatially oriented occupations. After two weeks in this job I told the relevant people at Mission that they had put me in the wrong area of work. However I was then bullied and put down by two macho men at Mission, and it was not until the following week that my employer sacked me because I just didn't have the necessary skills or aptitude to work in design. Only then did the men of Mission acknowledge that I had been right all along. This meant hat I had to recommence working for the dole. This time I was sent to the Lifeline donation sorting depot where I ended up being made to push a broom and pick up rubbish in the out-doors area where they keep their skips of rubbish for recycling and the tip. This was truly a "labour of Sisyphus", pointless and demeaning, and I could take it as nothing other than punishment for the crime of being unemployed. If, as the manifesto of Mission states, work for the dole is supposed to be an opportunity for the long-team unemployed to gain relevant and useful work experience, then they have failed miserably in my case. While the Mission people said they were trying to find something more suitable, (though in hindsight I don't believe a work of it), in the interim I had to work in what effectively amounted to a sheltered-workshop. My point is that enforced/coerced labour is a breech of the rights of Australian's, and the threat of being cut off benefits is a form of psychological torture which I can only see as a deliberate attempt to marginalise and break the spirit of unemployed people. This must stop, I may be an extreme case given my level of education and work experience, but at least I have the critical skills and ability to see the work for the dole scheme for what it really is; a form of coercive slave-labor opportunistically exploiting the misfortunes of the unemployed. Given the global financial crisis which came to a head last year (the week I handed in my honours thesis predicting this, hopefully, final crisis of Capitalism), the number of unemployed people will rise, and  the new Job Services providers will find more and more professional/educated/skilled people experiencing structural unemployment. If we are to be treated with the usual contempt these people have for the unemployed, Australia will experience a schism that will take decades to recover from, as formerly respected and experienced people will suffer the ugly and marginalised "life on the dole".

    • Chris Baulman

      June 16, 2009 at 6:31 am

      Rights? – only if you don’t look too closely!
      Hi Gallagher,

      I think I know exactly what you are saying and I agree with you. The challenge is to come up with a viable solution – if one expects/needs to be supported indefinately, what obligations does one have?

      Problem is that the only ways recognised as valid in meting our 'obligations' is to become a professional student or continue 'looking' for work and do work for the dole. 

      As you say, this is actually designed to break the spirit and force you into ANYTHING that will get you off the books. 

      This is my perspective on the Dole and a solution I propose that would respect human rights.

       The Dole Is Not Your Birthright
      … to live in peace, justice and security is!  

      There is no automatic right to any of society's benefits to which we did not fairly contribute (although even as children we may already have paid a hefty price through the absence of working parents. There is also a case for humaneness regarding the strong and the weak, but that consideration is unnecessary to the point to be made here.)

      So what other possibility is there without paid work and with no birthright to the dole?  

      Rights always involve responsibilities, and they are always limited by the equality of rights of all others, and by the rights of future generations. A lifestyle that respects rights and responsibilities is a just lifestyle.  Access to such a lifestyle is the right and responsibility of all.

      We have the right to choose to live with others, in a group or a family, or we may choose to live alone.
      We also have the right to enjoy the fruits of our chosen lifestyle, provided that lifestyle is balanced and its fruits are just and equitable, depriving nobody of anything they have a right to expect.  

      So how does one gain access to such rights, and what responsibilities must be met?
      These are human rights, and to gain them one simply has to be born.
      They can be lost by being irresponsible.  

      To live at all, we must have food, shelter and clothing. We may get these things by any just means.

      We may choose to work for someone doing just, equitable and balanced work. For this we are paid and can thereby buy what we need to live.   

      Alternatively we may even decide barter our product or service.  

      But, we have no obligation to take either of these choices. We do not have any obligation to work for anyone to acquire our right to live.

      To live is a right, and there is no responsibility to provide for our needs by working for any other person for payment or exchange.  

      However, neither do we have any right to have others provide anything for us … unless we are working for them, or except if we are their dependent.  

      To provide for our own needs by working directly with the gifts of nature is the only other possibility, and, while few may choose it, it must remain a right to have this option.  

      Since food, shelter and clothing all come directly from the land, then access to land where the individual can provide for themselves must be a right, limited of course by the rights of all others, as expressed for example in just and equitable building regulations, etc.

      (This right of access to land for survival must also necessarily limit the right any other person may have to hold title over land for any other purpose).  

      Society seems to have forgotten about this right, except in an around-about and rather weak way through our public housing system.

      Unfortunately, public housing is now seen as a charity by many who are independent through wages or business – it certainly has a 'non-birthright' even ‘welfare' component to it.

      The labour and building materials paid for by the taxpayer may be the reason for this, but land itself is another element to public housing and it is fundamental. It is this element which we say is an inalienable human right.   

      So I see the Dept of Housing as the best potential for a national reform which would restore the opportunity for people to choose to provide for themselves.  

      Unfortunately not only have we forgotten that it is our right to choose how we will provide for ourselves, we have also forgotten how we could manage to provide for ourselves from the land, even if appropriate access was restored. Others now build our homes, grow our lettuces, and still others grow our tomatoes.

      We did not give up our right of access to land, or the skills that would make this right useful. They were accidentally eroded by a system of specialisation and industrialisation beginning at school and before.  

      If we should choose to reclaim our right or those skills, the system which deprived us of them would have a moral duty to help us to regain them, to establish ourselves, and to rightfully live on the land.  

      Compare this to the situation today where an unemployed person must either manage to find a job they want, or, if they cannot find one that is suitable, they must be willing to work in any job which the system dictates that they work in. If not, they will be deprived of the financial support they need for food, shelter and clothing, and will have no human right to live by. Does this seem right to you?  

      In these circumstances where there is the denial of a birthright by which a person can live, that person would seem to acquire a different type of right to the basics from that system – the dole.  

      There is one way by which rights and responsibilities could be assured.With appropriate education support through TAFE to learn practical skills, and by applying them in a co-operative model lifestyle, a group of around 10 unemployed people could demonstrate the benefits for the entire community that would flow from a restoration of natural rights and responsibilities.  

      Through access to land and the development of skills for sustainable development, participants could provide for their basic needs, and in fair exchange for the advantages received as part of the larger society, could make a meaningful contribution out of their activities and experience.

      This would be a project for Neighbourhoods That Work (see  

  10. John Smuts

    June 16, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Use our current laws

    I'm not sure we need new laws to protect our rights and liberties, rather we just need to use our current laws properly.

    Generally Australian society is very fair and tolerant. Clearly we still have a way to go and the way some of the Indian community in Melbourne have been treated illustrates that.

     However, introducing laws to 'make' people stop being bigotted and prejudiced simply doesn't work. In fact it usually has the opposite effect of creating martyrs for their particular cause.  

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

      If that were true..

      If that were true then how do you explain the current USA President?

      Women Prime Ministers in a number of countries?

      And if the current laws were ok why is it so today that:

      Intersex childrens genitals are unnecessarily surgically altered despite doctors getting the guess as to what sex to force them into wrong somewhere near 1/3rd of the time!

      Gays and Lesbians are not allowed to marry their long-term committed partners or have other equal rights even though more than 50% (nearly 60% i think the new one says) of the Australian population according to polls are in favour of that?

      Transsexuals who are married are forced by law to divorce loving partner in order to avoid much discrimination.

      Transsexuals are forced to be sterilised for the same reason.

      Many forms of Transgender are not covered by state-based anti-discimination and antivillification legislation depsite worldwide being one of the most discriminated against groups of people.

      Goth and Emo are not covered under current law. DOCS being called in on a single mother in my region because she was 'dressed like she was depressed' despite always being dressed as a Goth even before the child was born would not be protected. Goths despite being less violent and less a threat to society than the average citizen according to sociological studies can be legally discriminated against for being Goths.

      These are just a few samples. None of them prevented by current laws as far as I'm aware. And believe me if those are currently illegal please tell me as many of those examples involve friends of mine or people who I have met or even myself.

  11. Fr Frank Brennan

    June 17, 2009 at 6:35 am

    Closing dates

    Submissions to the National Human Rights Consultation Committee closed on Monday 15 June 2009.

    If you missed the deadline to make a personal submission, and would like to participate in the consultation process, there are still two avenues available to you:

    1. You can participate in an online consultation at until 5pm 26 June.

    2. Public Hearings will be held in the Great Hall, Parliament House in Canberra on 1 to 3 July 2009. Please continue to visit for more information on how you can register to attend the Public Hearings.

    Please note, contributions to Open Forum will not constitute official submissions, however the Committee will be considering your views in preparing their final report to government.

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

  12. sandie perry

    June 22, 2009 at 2:17 am

    Are Human Rights and Responsibilities Sufficiently Protected?

    Q2: Are Human Rights and Responsibilities Sufficiently Protected and Promoted?

    A: NO

    REASON: (Particularly) Due to new Legislation passed in:

    • South Australia – Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act 2008
    • New South Wales – Crimes (Criminal Organisations Control) Act 2009
    • Queensland – Crime & Misconduct & Summary Offences Amendment Act 2009

    Since the passing in of these Legislations it has become apparent that MANY Human Rights are and will be Violated (against inherent human dignity and basic fundamental freedoms).

    Via the police and media we are led to believe that these laws only affect "bikie gangs", however, upon closer perusal it is not so clarified and the laws extend to any particular organisation at the behest of the Police Commissioner of those states.

    Although (with respect) it may well not be the intention of the Legislation or the Attorney Generals' Office it does potentially leave the door wide open to extremely dangerous and serious misuse/abuse of power, (e.g. "On the balance of probabilities" wording in the legislation).

    The above Legislations have the potential to and will corrode the following Articles of the


    : Articles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13(1), 16(3), 18, 19, 20(1), 21(1), 22, 23(1), 25(1), 28, 29(2), 30

    [Sandie Perry has written a blog on 'bikie legislation" which can be viewed here: Freedom of Association & Human Rights – Site Administration]

  13. brettm

    June 25, 2009 at 7:02 am

    Human rights For Young People (submission by Frontyard)

    Are human Rights currently sufficiently protected and promoted?

    Some of the key human rights violations faced by young homeless persons or those at risk of homelessness include:

    The right to an adequate standard of housing

    Over the past two decades there has been a substantial decline in the availability of low cost rental housing in both public and private spheres despite increase in demand. Data from the last Census night in 2006 showed 105,000 individuals to be homeless (1).

    One in every three of those where under the age of 18. It is a reasonable assumption that given the limitations of Census data the figure could considerably underestimate the youth homeless figure. Unfortunately since 2006 the global financial crisis has further exacerbated the already existing housing crisis.

    One of the major problems causing homelessness and preventing its resolution is the difficulty young people have in gaining access to affordable housing. In the current housing market there are simply not enough affordable housing options suitable for young people. In addition, the lack of references and employment history, as well as discrimination based on age; often prevent young people from accessing what little housing is available. Whilst Department of Housing can help with bond loans, it will not give assistance if the rent being paid is more than 55 per cent of your income.

    The below quote comes from a 19 year old female client of Frontyard who has experienced several periods of homelessness over the past two years:

    "In today's rental market finding a place that is cheap doesn't happen very often. Then there is the first month's rent, gas and electricity and the added expense of getting furniture and plates and cutlery and stuff. If someone can get all of this together then a lack of references will usually stop approval going through. I found this to be really difficult in my situation and the main reason I was able to get into the market was because one of my housemates had a reliable full time job and good references".

    The main option for young homeless people to have a semi permanent roof over their heads is to join the long waiting list for public housing or utilize rooming houses/ hostels. Sadly, for those young people accessing Frontyard's housing referral service (Melbourne Youth Support Service) sometimes the only option available for a young person is to stay in an environment that is unsafe, often surrounded by older individuals, with mental health and drug and alcohol problems who can pose a threat to personal safety and theft of belongings.

    Frontyard Youth Services maintains that young people have a fundamental right, not simply to shelter, but a right to adequate housing. Homelessness is not simply about a lack of housing, it is about the lack of connections with family, friends and the community and a lack of control over ones environment.

    The right to be safe and free from violence

    The physical safety of a young homeless person is often under constant threat. The lack of a safe living environment leaves them more vulnerable to crime and personal threats. Homeless young people are at a heightened risk of violence, as Adler (1990) (2) pointed out it is common for young people to flee violence in the home only to find themselves victims of further abuse on the streets.

    Three young people from Frontyard Youth Services presented last year at the Youth Justice forum. (3) Below are some of the experiences and opinions expressed by them on the day.

    A young women ‘Amy" spoke about the impact of violence against young women.

    "Most of the time young women don't expect to go out and end up being sexually assaulted. Young women in this age group like to go out and have fun and drink, dance and not expect to have to deal with being a victim of crime. Being a young woman can be scary at times. Having to do something or being forced to do something you are not comfortable with or in control of is an unpleasant experience. Many young women are scared to report things to the police because we feel intimidated and at times feel that the police won't believe us anyway".

    "Jonathan" spoke about stereotyping of youth at risk.

    "For young people, especially homeless young people one of the main barriers to reporting crime as a victim is if you have a criminal conviction. If you have a criminal conviction you might feel that you are treated badly by the police because of the previous conviction. Also there is the attitude of some police that if a crime has been committed and you are a young person then you deserve it. Or that if you do try and report a theft that the items you are reporting are already stolen".

    "Glen" spoke about the reluctance of young people to report being victims of crime.

    "One of the reasons young people do not report crime is the fear of repercussions because often police are unable to charge & hold a young person or perpetrator. Another factor is often the person who committed the offence receives minor punishments and is still able to seek revenge on the victim. Sometimes victims are threatened, and therefore not willing to tell police. Also again if you already have a criminal record police sometimes think you provoked being attacked because of your own criminal history".

    Negative interactions, at times involving physical altercations between young people and police is also a reoccurring theme. A young man in a Frontyard focus group, discussing interactions with police shared the following experience.

    "I was on the train…didn't have any ticket because I didn't have any money for a ticket…the cops were on the train and I got kicked off the train… they wouldn't let me go the extra stop to Footscray. When I got off the train, they got off with me and when the train was gone they bashed me cause they thought I was being a smart ****".

    The right to an adequate income and social security

    The majority of young people who seek assistance from Frontyard Youth Services have to rely, at some point, on Centrelink benefits as they do not have supportive families able to provide financial assistance. Frontyard finds that the levels of income are so low for young people that those already at risk are prevented from covering the most basic of needs like accommodation, bills, food, clothes, transport and education fees. The consequence of providing such low level benefits for those with multiple and complex issues are that young people become trapped in a state of semi poverty, unable to cover daily living needs or break away from being marginalized.

    A report by Melbourne City Mission in 2007 (4) drawing on evidence gathered from Frontyard clients found that

    "Many benefits and entitlements assume that young people remain living with their family and/or gain other material or financial supports. Many of the current income support arrangements are designed to discourage young people from leaving home, and to keep a financial link between parents and children. However this does not necessarily reflect the real circumstances of young people who are disadvantaged. A large number of disadvantaged young people come from low-income households; leave home to escape violence, conflict or other inappropriate environments; or have been in care of the state".

    In order to apply for benefits a young person must also satisfy strict proof of Identity requirements. The system does not take into account that homeless youth often encounter extreme difficulty to afford and provide other documents that prove their identity. For most people gathering forms of identity is a straight forward process but for a young homeless person it is so much more challenging. In order to obtain proof of identity you need to already possess 100 points of identity. Young people get caught in a terrible Catch 22 situation, you need ID to get ID. A large percentage of young people in the homeless sector have only a very basic level of education and therefore struggle to obtain and maintain employment. Few options appropriate and available to young people such as apprenticeships and traineeships, although fantastic options for young people still living in a supportive family environment, are usually unrealistic for young people forced to live independently and cover living expenses. Having to commit to several years of an apprenticeship while living on such basic wages is not feasible despite the many long term learning and employment benefits. Young people accessing Frontyard who are struggling with unstable accommodation often experience serious levels of debt on top of ongoing living expenses. That debt is often as a result of having to repay a loan to Centrelink.

    The "Still Looking for a Break" report in 2007 (5) reported that most young people at Frontyard applied for Centrelink loans to buy necessities such as food or to cover school fees or the cost of another loan. In other cases debt was incurred as a result of a error by Centrelink. Forty three per cent of participants indicated that the repayments had resulted in greater hardship.

    "It had a great impact because I'm in debt. I took out a few other loans as well. I turned to crime because I had no money to feed myself and still don't" (17 year old male)

    The right to education

    Young people experiencing homelessness are significantly more likely to have had poor educational experiences and achieved a lower level of formal education. The project ‘I' study of 403 homeless young people in Melbourne found that over one third (36%) had left school at Year 9 or earlier (6).

    Much evidence exists that early school leaving is a key characteristic of youth homelessness. Low levels of education can result in a poor transition being made to the employment field. Fewer opportunities exist in the workforce for those without a minimum Year 10 qualification. For homeless youth financial constraints and insecure housing make successful engagement with education or training extremely difficult. Financial burden and disadvantage often led to disengagement from education and learning. Course fees, books and equipment even on concession rates, often cost many hundreds of dollars.

    For a young person experiencing homelessness and attempting to continue with their studies Youth Allowance from Centrelink will provide them with $371.40 per fortnight (7). Once essential expenses have been taken out, attempting to maintain an adequate standard of living becomes virtually impossible. Homeless youth, unsupported by family, often cannot meet these costs and risk becoming disconnected from the education system due to financial constraints.

    Case Study

    Jenny is 19 years old. She left the family home 4 years ago due to ongoing conflict. Over the previous few years Jennys' life was extremely unstable and transient. Jenny had been out of the education system for at least 4 years, having left school due to difficulties focusing on her studies whilst family life became stressful. Over time Jenny came to realise she was at a disadvantage by not having at least a minimum level of secondary education.

    After much deliberation, Jenny made the decision to return and complete her studies. With the assistance of her support worker she applied to study Year 10 at a local TAFE. Jenny was able to get assistance from support services to cover the cost of her enrolment fees but soon discovered that additional fees for school books and transport costs also needed to be covered. The cost of school books and equipment for only one Semester, even for second hand books, came to several hundred dollars and to travel each month to school cost more than $84.00 even for a concession ticket. With a great deal of assistance and advocacy Jenny remained engaged in study for approximately 7 months however by Semester 2 she found the financial strain too overwhelming to cope with and she made the decision to leave study for a short term employment opportunity as a waitress because it provided better for her immediate financial needs. At the time of writing Jennys' job had finished up and she is once again struggling to find employment.

    In research conducted with Frontyard clients in 2007, a significant percentage (43%) of participants currently on unemployment benefits indicated they were hoping to return to studying in the following 12 months. This figure is not surprising to those who work at Frontyard, as many at risk youth have a genuine desire to improve their level of education but very little financial means by which to achieve this goal.

    The right to freedom of movement

    It is fairly common at Frontyard to hear stories from young people about being told by police in the CBD to move on. This happens most often when a group of young people are gathered in a meeting place and are seen to be a nuisance, or intimidating to others, therefore making them a threat that needs to be moved on. This raises an issue for those who live on the streets. Where do you move on to, unfortunately there is nowhere in the city. It is not uncommon for young people to be continuously moved from one place to another.

    The following views were expressed by young people visiting Frontyard:

    "It feels like we get moved because we make the space untidy"

    "Being moved all the time goes against this being a free country"

    "If they see a bunch of us in hoodies they think that we're going to bash someone, roll someone"

    "If we're in a big group it's called a gang even when we're just mates hangin out"

    Freedom of movement on public transport is also an ongoing concern for the homeless. Our experience at Frontyard is that young homeless people very often do not have the financial capacity to pay for even concessional public transport tickets. These young people are living on extremely low incomes, and the cost of purchasing other necessities result in them not being able to afford to pay the ticket fee at the time of travel. Even at half fare concession prices a single daily ticket costs $5.60 (8).

    Case study:

    Mary is 19 years old. Due to issues of family abuse, for the past 2 years she has been disconnected from family. For the past 18 months she has been staying in crisis and transitional accommodation. Mary has several physical and mental health challenges that require her to attend numerous medical appointments in addition to her remaining engaged with housing support services. Support workers have commented on how reliable Mary has been, attending all scheduled appointments and demonstrating a real commitment to improve her situation. Despite her best efforts to find employment, at the moment she has to rely on $371.40 per fortnight from Youth Allowance, leaving her very little money to be able to afford a ticket each day. Over the past few months she has received 3 separate fines for not having a validated ticket. Each fine carries an initial penalty of $167.00.Having to deal with these fines has added unnecessary stress on top of already existing problems. Mary is often placed in the unfortunate position of having to choose between missing a scheduled appointment or taking the risk of being caught without a ticket.

    Marys' story is very typical of young people accessing Frontyard. For homeless youth, access to public transport is essential. Without the financial means to travel on public transport young people cannot gain access to vital support services. It is not uncommon for young people experiencing homelessness to accumulate thousands of dollars in unpaid fines, resulting in escalating debt. Young people also regularly report informally to support workers incidents of unnecessary aggression displayed by ticket inspectors.

    Below are some views expressed by young people:

    "I've seen like 6 Connex workers jump on top of a young guy and start throwing some kicks in just because he did not have a ticket. I know it's wrong to not have a ticket and all but that shouldn't mean you have the right to just beat someone up".

    " They deliberately target young people, I've seen ‘em walk right passed a whole bunch of older people and straight over the me just cause I was young and looked like I wouldn't have a ticket, lucky for me I had a ticket".

     The right to the highest standard of physical and mental health

    Frontyard holds the belief that access to the highest level of health care is a fundamental human right. The experience of homelessness has a direct impact on the physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing of young people, resulting in a perpetual cycle of poor health and transience. Easy access to relevant health services for young homeless people is significantly less than the broader population.

    Reasons for these access barriers include, lack of money, lack of transport, lack of identification or Medicare Card, unhelpful or judgmental attitudes from health professionals, difficulty in maintaining appointments and a general lack of information and awareness of health services. Young people experiencing homelessness also do not have no privacy, no safe or reliable place to recuperate from illness nor do they have a secure place to keep medications, making ongoing treatment at times difficult.

    It is a very common experience for young people to have what little valuables they possess stolen. Amongst young people, those homeless have often had experiences of negative, judgmental attitudes within the health system, resulting in them being less likely to seek much needed assistance particularly in relation to mental health issues.

    "I've been to doctors before who don't really treat you with respect. They talk down to you, think you're an idiot just because of your living circumstances". (Female 17 years)

    The prevalence of mental illness amongst youth homelessness is extremely high. Often the treatment of mental illness will be of low priority for young people more focused on searching for stable accommodation. In situation were young people are open to accessing assistance the response may be inadequate.

    Research conducted, into mental health services provided to young homeless, by the Young People's Health Service (9), a service located within Frontyard Youth Services found that what young people wanted above all else was a service that provided people to talk to whom they could talk to and trust, who listened and allowed them to go at their own pace. One young female in a Frontyard focus group confided that:

    "I have a mental health problem and the stress of being homeless triggered an episode. It was really stressful not knowing where I was going to be staying and I ended up in hospital cause I was so stressed out…….I spent 2 months in hospital for treatment of my schizophrenia and it felt like the most stable housing I have had in ages……. I'm now in a refuge waiting to hear about other accommodation options".



    1. ABS, Census data (2006)

    2. Adler (1990) cited in Halstead, B. 1992, Young People as Victims of Violence, National Youth Affairs Research Scheme, Department of Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart.

    3. Frontyard Youth Services (2008) Adolescent Health Conference "Young people as victims of crime" November 2008, Melbourne.

    4. Melbourne Citymission (2007) A plan for Change. August 2007, Melbourne

    5. Jordan, L & Horn, M (2007) Still looking for a Break Welfare to Work – So what's changed, August 2007 Melbourne Citymission.

    6. Rossiter B, Mallett S, Myers P and Rosenthal D (2003) Living Well? Homeless Young People in Melbourne, Project I, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne.

    7. Centrelink.2009. Centrelink rate of payment [Accessed 18th June 2009].

    8. Metlink 2009 [Accessed 18th June 2009].

    9. Dixon, M & Lloyd, S. 2005 Mental Health Services: What young People who are homeless say. Youth Studies Australia

    Frontyard ( is a collection of youth services that work together to address the physical, emotional and social needs of young people aged up to 25 years who spend time in the CBD and are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Frontyard is the largest service for homeless teenagers and young adults in Victoria. 1 out of every 4 homeless young Victorians aged 12-25 contact Frontyard for assistance. It is the premier service for youth homelessness in Victoria. Frontyard seeks to provide young people with choices that contribute to their health and future wellbeing and, where possible, return them to their community of origin. Most services are drop-in so no appointments are necessary. Services available to young people include;

    • Centrelink (Social security and income support)
    • Young People's Health Service (a health service through the Royal Children's Hospital)
    • Youthlaw (a free legal advise and case work service)
    • Gateway Reconnect (an early intervention/ family support services)
    • Melbourne Youth Support Service (an emergency and material aid service)
    • Homeground (visiting service; accommodation options)
    • Youth Substance Abuse Service (visiting service; drug / alcohol issues)
    • Family Reconciliation and Mediation Service
    • Pastoral Care Program, and
    • Jobs Placement Employment and Training Program (a government education, employment and training service)
  14. taasq

    June 25, 2009 at 7:10 am


    I am from the Tenant Advice & Advocacy Service in Brisbane's inner city and what I am posting here is on behalf of the tenants and residents that our service daily assists. 

    Currently tenancy laws within Queensland are counter-productive to two human rights.  These human rights are the right to shelter with security of tenure and the right of due process in legal disputes.

    The current laws (and the new ones due to take effect on the 1st of July 2009) allow for the following outrageous breaches of human rights.


    Tenants can be evicted "without grounds" from their homes.  This means that tenants who are acting in good faith and simply seeking shelter for themselves and their families can be made homeless at the will of the landlords.  We compare this to the "unfair dismissal" laws in industrial relations.  You cannot be unfairly dismissed from your job but apparently it's OK to be unfairly dismissed from your housing. 

    This is a serious breach of the right to shelter and security of tenure.  There needs to be legislation that states that landlords can only end tenancies for valid reasons.  The list of reasons can be extensive i.e. if they need the place back to live in it, for a relative to live in, to sell it or to renovate it etc. 

    Where there is no requirement for a reason to end a tenancy it leaves it open to discrimination which is another breach of human rights.  Further it leaves people open to retaliation for exercising their rights which is a constant in tenant/landlord situations.


    Laws allow owners and operators of boarding houses, hostels, age care accommodation and student accommodation in Queensland to evict immediately for any alleged serious breach. 

    A notice to leave can be issued legally on the same day for any alleged serious breach which gives the right of the operator to call the police and have the person removed.  The police are there only to oversee the person losing their housing and are not there to arbitrate or decide on whether the person should be made homeless. 

    Given that the majority of residents in, for example, boarding house and hostel accommodation are those from the lowest incomes this is impacting considerably on homelessness.  Residents are more likely to be people who are disabled, in receipt of benefits and are more likely to have been homeless at some time in their lives.  There is no doubt that the first step from homeless to housing is often in a boarding house and the first step into homelessness is often from a boarding house.

    It is a huge breach of human rights where the person concerned does not even have the right to legally defend any allegations against them.  Evictions can only be "disputed", if you can call it that afterwards through the Tribunal.  By this time it's way too late, the people are homeless or in alternate accommodation and what order would they seek?  Some compensation for illegal eviction?  Too little, too late.

    It is our experience at the Tenant Advice & Advocacy Service that service providers are using the immediate eviction option as a "catch-all" to both bully residents with threats of immediate eviction and to get rid of anyone who seeks to stand up for their rights.  We can report that people who have asked for receipts for rent where the service provider has refused have then been summarily and immediately evicted for "nuisance" by arguing with them to enforce their rights.  We could give twenty different scenarios of such injustice but will spare you the list.  This legislation breaches the fundamental human right of natural justice and does not give access to due process.

    What is disturbing is that even if there is no alleged serious breach that all residents can be evicted without need of an order from the Small Claims Tribunal.  Service providers routinely get rid of residents at whim and often because they insist upon their rights.  There is no protection for these people and no legal fairness or scrutiny of their circumstances.  The fact that people can be evicted without due process undermines all of the rights within the legislation. 

    If this was happening in another country and we heard about it we would be horrified.  Guess what?  It's happening in our country, get horrified!!!!!!!!!!

    "Those who deny justice to others deserve it not themselves" – Abraham Lincoln

  15. Fr Frank Brennan

    June 25, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Protecting and upholding

    Throughout the Consultation and also in parts of this forum, I've seen some interesting discussion on protection of vulnerable people's rights, especially those of homeless people. 'Brian' has raised some good points about the challenges homeless people face with accessing basic human services such as shelter, access to toilets, showers, and an adequate standard of living. The idea is emerging from your discussions that upholding human rights means more than just protection of those rights.  Would it be right to understand that people think 'protection' of human rights implies preventing the existing enjoyment of rights from being taken away whilst 'upholding' human rights implies a more proactive approach to ensuring that people's basic human rights are met? For example, you could 'protect' someone's right to a home if they already have a home and you prevent their home from being taken from them. On the other hand, 'upholding' someone's right to a home could mean doing something more proactive like providing someone with a home or shelter, or ensuring they have access to shelter, when they don't actually have it.

    Does 'protecting human rights' necessarily include the responsibility to 'uphold' them? Do you think that human rights need more than just protection? What does having your human rights protected mean to you? Does protection of human rights mean it is the responsibility of the government to proactively uphold people's human rights and what is the extent of this responsibility?

    Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee

    • Bayne MacGregor

      June 26, 2009 at 5:01 am

      Including Upholding!

      Yes I agree that the governemnet has an obligation to uphold rights as far as can be done based on your definition of the term.

      For starters many existing rights principles are not enshrined in law, so upholding rights would include for example extending all marriage rights to same-sex couples or extending antidiscrimination and antivilification legislation to the entire sex and gender diverse community.

      On top of that Australia insisted on enshrining social and economic rights in the U.N. Decleration on Universal Human Rights despite claims that poorer countries could not possibly afford them.

      So the chickens come home to roost and we must practice what we preached! Besides I'm sure that the long-term economic benefit of turning the homeless and jobless into productive taxpaying citizens would outweigh the short-term cost of actually providing proper resources!

  16. centreformulticulturalyouth

    June 26, 2009 at 4:06 am

    Link to Submission by Centre for Multicultural Youth

    The Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY) is a statewide community-based organisation that advocates for the needs and rights of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

    CMY's submission has been informed by a survey and a series of focus groups held with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Focus groups were conducted with over 80 young people from both metropolitan and regional Victoria. CMY also held a statewide forum for youth and community workers from a range of organisations that work with this cohort of young people. Over 60 people participated in the forum to provide their perspective. In addition, this submission draws on the organisation's 20 years of experience working with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and their communities.

    Here is a link to our submission:

  17. Fr Frank Brennan

    June 26, 2009 at 6:56 am

    A vote of thanks

    As this forum draws to a close I'd like to extend my thanks to those who have participated.  Thanks to Sally Rose, Olga Bodrova and the staff of Open Forum for running this for the National Human Rights Consultation. Thanks also to Tom Campbell, George Williams, Nicholas Barry and Phil Lynch for their expert input. 

    Mostly though, thanks to all of you who have posted here. Your contributions are important and will go a long way towards contributing to what has been a phenomenal national debate over human rights. Never before has the Australian public been asked explicitly to tell the Government what they think about human rights. It's a landmark occasion and a great example of a healthy democracy that can ask itself, 'how are we going?' and 'how can we do better?' 

    Whether it has been broad calls for better human rights awareness, specific pleas for assistance coming from Indigenous and other marginalised communities, or the cautioning voices of those who are concerned about the future direction of human rights protection in Australia – your views have been noted.

    For now though, this marks the close of the online forum component of the National Human Rights Consultation. After the public hearings held at Parliament House next week, we'll be battening down the hatches for the coming months to reflect upon and consider everything we've heard and present our report to Government. Keep an eye out on our website for updates on how we're going.

    Thanks again.

    Signing off.Father Frank Brennan
    National Human Rights Consultation Committee