A broad coalition of Western Australian community organisations today launched a major campaign for the Western Australian Parliament to adopt a Human Rights Act.
The announcement was made at the event Towards a Human Rights Act for Western Australia, held on the anniversary of United Nations Human Rights Day by Curtin Law School and the WA for a Human Rights Act Coalition (a joint initiative of the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights).
Australia is currently the only western democracy without a national charter or a bill of human rights. The ACT, Victoria and Queensland have all passed their own human rights acts to ensure formal protection for the rights of individuals at the state and territory level.
The event comprised a symposium that was attended by members of the legal profession, academics and human rights practitioners interested in working towards a Human Rights Act for WA. The event also marked an important opportunity for attendees to hear from representatives of Western Australia for a Human Rights Act, a coalition of organisations and individuals campaigning to ensure that the human rights of Western Australians are protected by law.
This symposium is timely given the growing discussion of human rights issues in Western Australia, and the need for better protection of human rights, particularly for the First Nations people of Western Australia.
Speakers at the symposium included:
- Indigenous Human Rights Lawyer and Associate Professor at Curtin University Hannah McGlade;
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, June Oscar AO
- Former Victorian Supreme Court Judge and Director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law and Professor of Practice at Monash University Kevin Bell AM QC;
- Greg McIntyre SC;
- Director of Clinical Legal Programs and Murdoch University Associate Professor Anna Copeland;
- Disability discrimination lawyer and founder and principal of Empire Law, Prue Hawkins
Associate Professor Hannah McGlade:
“A Human Rights Act for our state will give us a better chance to respect, promote and protect rights that should be accorded to every one of us. Human rights are our birthright; we cannot and should not ever forget how important human rights are to our society.”
June Oscar AO:
“For WA and for Australia, comprehensive human rights legislation is well overdue and a step that must be taken if we are to reconcile the values we purport to hold with the reality that surrounds us.”
Kevin Bell AM QC:
“A Human Rights Act in Western Australia would protect fundamental rights and freedoms in ways that current laws do not. The Act would help to create a human rights conscious culture and be especially valuable for those most vulnerable and for Aboriginal communities.”
Greg McIntyre SC:
“In 2007, the Government of Western Australia commissioned an extensive community consultation to consider the introduction of a WA Human Rights Act, led by Fred Chaney AO. Following this consultation, and consistent with the WA community’s strong support, the committee issued a comprehensive report recommending that WA introduce a Human Rights Act with strong legal protections for a broad range of civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights.
“It is high time that Western Australia re-visited the work done 14 years ago and joined those jurisdictions in Australia who have such legislation operating in fulfilment of the entitlement which all citizens have to the observations of fundamental human rights.”
Associate Professor Anna Copeland:
“Australia is a little behind most developed democracies in that it does not have comprehensive legislative protections of Human Rights. Within Australia, the lead has been taken by some jurisdictions to implement similar protections which has resulted in better outcomes for disadvantaged and vulnerable people and more accountability for government.
“Now is the time for WA to enact similar legislation to ensure that the human rights of everyone are protected.”
“If a Human Rights Act has the ability to change the current David and Goliath situation that is currently faced by people with disability, then bring it on!”