The Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (the Act) was passed by the Queensland Parliament on 27 February 2019. At this time, Queensland joined the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria in being the only Australian jurisdictions with statutory protection for human rights. There is no federal Human Rights Act or Charter.
The Queensland Act has been described as the most ‘broad reaching and accessible’ Human Rights Act in Australia as it extends beyond similar legislation in the ACT and Victoria and also:
protects the economic, social and cultural rights to education and healthcare;
establishes for human rights complaints to be made to the Queensland Human Rights Commission (an accessible, inexpensive way for human rights issues to be heard and resolved).
When does the Act commence?
The Act will take effect in two stages:
1. The first stage will rename the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland the Queensland Human Rights Commission and the educative functions of the Commission will start (expected to be from 1 July 2019).
2. The second stage will be the commencement of the complaints processes (expected to be from 1 January 2020).
The Act will be reviewed within four years of commencing, and then after a further four years.
Why is it important to have a Human Rights Act?
The Act is an important development in recognising the essential role human rights play in a democratic and inclusive society.
A Human Rights Act is important because it will:
Protect the rights of vulnerable Queenslanders by addressing disadvantage;
Result in development of a human rights culture across communities in Queensland;
Lead to improved law making and government policy;
Result in improved public service delivery;
Assist Australia to fulfil its international human rights obligations.
What human rights are protected?
The Act protects 23 fundamental human rights and freedoms, including:
Civil and Political Rights:
Recognition and equality before the law
Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment
Freedom of movement
Freedom of expression
Taking part in public life
Privacy and reputation
Cultural rights – generally
Right to liberty and security of person
Fair hearing Children in the criminal process
Retrospective criminal laws
Right to life
Freedom from forced work
Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
Protection of families and children
Cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Humane treatment when deprived of liberty
Rights in criminal proceedings
Right not to be tried or punished more than once
Economic, social and cultural rights
Right to education
Right to health services
What can you do if your human rights are breached?
Under the Act, if you feel that your human rights have been breached by a public entity, you can:
In the first instance, raise the issue directly with the relevant public entity;
Lodge a complaint with the Queensland Human Rights Commission;
Include the human rights complaint as part of court action to protect another legal right.
By taking these actions, you might be able to get the public entity to change their decision or actions taking into account your human rights. The Human Rights Commission can hold a conciliation between the parties, and help you to achieve an agreed outcome that recognises your human rights. The Courts can make declarations about whether your human rights have been breached.
Are there limits to human rights under the Human Rights Act?
The Human Rights Act allows for reasonable limits to be placed on human rights, which may be justified ‘in a free and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom’. When determining whether a limit is reasonable and justifiable, the ‘proportionality test’ applies and the nature of the human right, the nature of the purpose of the limitation, the relationship between the limitation and its purpose, whether there are less restrictive and reasonably available options to achieve that purpose, the importance of the purpose of the limitation and the importance of safeguarding the human right is considered.
What is QAI doing in this space?
QAI has been a long-time campaigner for greater human rights protection in Queensland and Australia. QAI participated as an NGO in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, has been involved in shadow reporting since its finalisation and has been represented in NGO delegations to United Nations conferences and sessional reviews of human rights treaties. QAI publishes resources aimed at helping people with disability and their families, advocates and practitioners understand the human rights conventions and how to comply with them. QAI was extensively involved in the campaign from a Human Rights Act in Queensland since its inception and auspiced the campaign to give it formal structure.
QAI is currently undertaking work aimed at preparing ourselves, our allies and individuals seeking assistance from the community legal sector to understand the new rights, responsibilities and options created by the legislation. QAI will also provide support to the Queensland Human Rights Commission under the new regime.
Queensland Human Rights Commission: www.adcq.qld.gov.au; p: 1300 130 670 (referrals to relevant advocacy services)
This factsheet has been prepared by Queensland Advocacy Incorporated (QAI), an independent, community-based systems and legal advocacy organisation for people with disability in Queensland (qai.org.au).
This publication is for general information only. It must not be relied on as legal advice. You must seek legal advice about your own particular circumstances.
This inquiry is indeed a matter of deep concern to Queenslanders with disability and their families and supporters and we welcome this opportunity to raise our concerns and offer our contribution to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee so that any decisions may be based on all the relevant information, ethical dilemmas and human rights.
A membership would broaden your knowledge around these issues and provide an opportunity to become involved with the advocacy efforts of this organisation.
QAI’s advocacy efforts, whether individual or systems, seeks to and achieves great improvement in the lives of vulnerable people with disability through promoting, protecting and defending their fundamental needs rights.
Our members have helped us achieve a lot in the past year as these highlights below show!
Active partnership in the Campaign for a Human Rights Act for Queensland – Our government has now passed this legislation and the Anti-Discrimination Commission will soon become the Human Rights Commission of Qld.
National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Commonwealth Powers) Bill 2018.
We held a forum to launch our pamphlets that were illustrated by a young woman with disability and the videos that were filmed with actors with disability to raise awareness of violence and abuse and other forms of control and power over people with disability
We have advocated to change the inaccessibility of the NGR trains
QAI has continued to have the criminal code changes to ensure that parents with disability are supported to keep their families together, and to maintain their rights to relationships
Produced factsheets on My Health Record
Held a stall for two days at the Care Expo and provided information and advice to those who attended
Assisted students with disability and their families towards better outcomes at schools
Advanced a collaborative effort for a national Human Rights Act
Made submissions to ensure that the DSP was still provided to prisoners with disability
Gave oral and written submissions to the state government about the reshaping of the Disability Services Act
Our advocacy with allies resulted in the ratification of OPCAT and continued advocacy to ensure that inspectorates will be held wherever people with disability are subjected to detention, and forms of restrictions and control
Held the State conference of Combined Advocacy Groups of Qld
Participated in actions to improve the Mental Health Tribunal processes to ensure better and fairer outcomes for people with mental illness
Continued to advocate for review and changes to the Forensic Disability Service
With partner ADA Australia delivered training
Provided input to the state government regarding advocacy in Queensland
Continued to advocate and agitate for changes to the NDIS particularly in relation to SDA and SILS, boarding houses and hostels. This has been directed at a national and state level across many government departments
Continued to agitate for improved access to state funded supports and services for non-NDIS participants or for needs outside the NDIS.
Advocated for a Royal Commission into the abuse and neglect of people with disability
Applied for and received funding to attend the Convention of State Parties in New York 2019 along with two emerging leaders with disability
Our individual advocacy engages with issues of guardianship, involuntary treatment and detention, criminal justice system and NDIS Appeals and Reviews.
We are proud of what we have been able to do and we could not have done it without the support of our members!
2019 and 2020 is gearing up to be full of exciting work!
A project QAI is currently working is to:
Develop a website to raise awareness of and provide information about authentic supports and advocacy for people experiencing forms of violence, abuse, coercion, control and neglect. We aim to create this user-friendly website and to enlist our allies to help us make this a national platform so that no matter where you live you will find the help you need.
Prepare to support people with disability in having their say about their experiences in the Royal Commission into abuse, neglect of people with disability.
As a member of QAI, you will receive a quarterly newsletter, notifications about current work, media releases and invitations to upcoming events.
In the next few months we hope to bring people with disability together in discussion groups to be part of the QAI advocacy around the issues that affect their lives.
This is a wonderful resource produced by the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability. It is an Easy English guide to the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability. We thank CID for developing this invaluable resource on the eve of the 12th UN CoSP, which will be held from 11-13 June at the UN headquarters in New York.
The introduction of the new right to education in the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) has generated significant interest. For the first time, the human right of every Queensland child to access education is recognised by law. Many parents, children and educators are wanting to know what impact this new law will have for students with disability in Queensland state schools. QAI has provided input into a project led by the UQ Pro Bono Centre to develop a community education publication, available here.
As the National Disability Insurance Scheme continues to roll out, people are feeling overwhelmed, unheard and facing road blocks at what can feel like every turn. Brisbane journalism student Loughlin Patrick has collated peoples experiences and brings you ‘Suffer No More’, a documentary that looks into the NDIS from many perspectives, including from QAI NDIS Appeals advocate, Courtney Wolf.