Calls for Australia to bring in a Charter of Human Rights

As the world marks the 74th anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the group Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) are calling on the Albanese government to bring in a Charter of Rights.

The legal group highlight that Australia was integral to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but we’re still the only Western Democracy without a Charter of Rights.

Today is Human Rights Day which marks the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document which underpins all international human rights law. This year’s theme is “freedom, dignity and justice for all” and Australian Lawyers for Human Rights say it offers an opportunity to reflect on successive governments’ failure to legally protect those principles in law for all Australians.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) President Kerry Weste says Australians should be alarmed that our system omits a specific rights document.

“Australia was a founding member of the UN and one of eight nations involved in drafting the UDHR. We should be very proud of the part we played as a nation and of our human rights heroes like Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, President of the UN General Assembly who oversaw the adoption of the UDHR, and Colonel William Roy Hodgson who, as a member of the committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, was influential in the UDHR’s drafting and inception.”

“How can it be then that Australia remains the only developed Western democracy bereft of a national Human Rights Act to legally protect the basic rights and freedoms of all Australians?” Weste asks.

“We should all be alarmed at the failure of our legal system to protect fundamental rights. These rights have evolved as the very foundations of democracy. The UDHR calls upon everybody to stand up for human rights and Australians need governments that are prepared to do so at home as well as internationally.” the ALHR President said.

The group says a Human Rights Act will create an essential framework that enables everyone involved in the work of government to engage in a positive collective effort to realise greater freedom, dignity and equality for all of us.

“Australians want to live in a society that, through everyday actions and decisions, upholds our rights and the rights of others, to work together for a more sustainable, just, and prosperous society – for this generation and those yet to come.”

This week Australian Human Rights Commission President Rosalind Croucher said a human rights act at both a state and federal level would make a significant change to policy developemnt.

“With all the States and Territories with Human Rights Act, and one at the federal level, we will have the solid bedrock for rights protections across Australia and the tools to shift the focus of decision making and policy development through a human rights lens.” Croucher said.

OIP Staff

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