Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

Australia’s Human Rights Commission President is coming to Armidale to give the 2023 Sanctuary Human Rights Lecture arguing that Australia needs a Bill of Rights.

Rosalind Croucher AM, Emeritus Professor and President of the Human Rights Commission since 2017, will use her address at the 2023 Armidale Sanctuary Human Rights Lecture on September 14 to outline why Australians would benefit from a Bill of Human Rights. Professor Croucher is a highly respected expert on law reform, public policy, equity, property, and legal history. She held leadership positions in law schools and the public service before moving to the Human Rights Commission. Armidale Sanctuary is a volunteer run organisation that provides support for refugees in our local community, and has been running the annual lecture since 2004.

While other comparable liberal democracies—including Canada, the UK, and New Zealand—have a Bill of Rights: Australia does not. Two states, Queensland and the ACT, have an Act of Human Rights, while Victoria has a Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. For the rest of the country, some rights are defined in the constitution or in legal judgements, but many rights we consider our due are not set down. 

Australians’ rights to vote, to trial by jury, to religious freedom, to be compensated fairly when property is reclaimed by the government and the freedom from discrimination because of where we live, are explicitly stated in the constitution. Some other basic rights have been established by legal decisions. By comparison, there are 30 rights listed in the  1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Many Australians would be surprised to find that the right to freedom of speech and the right to have legal representation are currently not protected. 

These omissions have a significant impact on Australian society.  The Human Rights Commission points to the poorer health outcomes for indigenous Australians, the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers including children, and the inadequacy of homeless peoples’ living conditions. There are poorer human rights outcomes for many in rural and regional areas  who  do not have access to the adequate provision of education. The Robodebt scheme is a current instance where the right to be treated fairly was not respected. Renters are also discovering their rights are not well protected if they receive no grounds eviction notices when they request repairs.

The Armidale Sanctuary Human Rights Lecture will be held on 14 September, 5.30 for 6:00 pm at the Armidale Ex-Services Club.  Admission is free but donations are welcome.

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