The Victorian Charter of Human Rights
and Responsibilities - What it means
A message from the Attorney-General
The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, one simple but
historic document that articulates our freedoms, rights and
responsibilities, is now enshrined in Victorian law.
Freedom of speech, freedom of association, protection from cruel
and degrading treatment – these and other basic human rights are
almost universally recognised, yet not always practised.
At the heart of Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and
Responsibilities is respect: the belief that everyone is entitled,
as we say, to ‘a fair go’. It’s part of our national character. It’s
behind our willingness to help in times of disaster or distress. Yet
the notion of ‘a fair go’ can be ignored, eroded, or corrupted and
rights we take for granted diminished or removed.
Contrary to what many of us may assume, the Australian
Constitution actually offers little protection for human rights.
Other rights and responsibilities are haphazardly scattered across
the Victorian statute books and common law while some have
been entirely unprotected. This Charter collates and expresses
our rights in a clear and commonsense way that can be understood
The Charter is the result of consultation with a wide range of
individuals and groups by an independent panel. The panel
travelled the state over seven months in 2005 to hear the views of
the Victorian community. The consultation resulted in an
unprecedented 2500 responses from people and organisations, of
which more than 90 percent supported the passage of new human
The Bracks Government places the highest value on protecting and
promoting basic human rights for every Victorian. This landmark
legislation ensures that future governments continue to value them
and cements them at the heart of our community and civic life.
The Hon. Rob Hulls MP
Introducing Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights
Protection for basic human rights
Victoria has become the first Australian state to enshrine basic
human rights in one Act of Parliament. As a result, Victoria is
coming into line with other Western countries that have clear
human rights legislation to protect rights such as freedom of
speech and the right to privacy.
The Charter will first protect and then help to change attitudes
and perceptions so that we all understand that rights come with
responsibilities – including the responsibility to respect other
The Charter is similar to those operating successfully in the United
Kingdom, New Zealand and our own ACT. Together with ordinary
Victorians we have struck a balance which ensures that those who
make decisions about Victorians and their families – governments
and the courts – take basic rights into account when they develop
and interpret laws and policies.
How the Charter works
The Charter means that when the government makes important
decisions, these rights must be taken into account.
Victorian Government departments and agencies will have to
comply with the Charter and have regard for human rights in their
day-to-day operations. The Charter is about better government
for the people of Victoria.
Future legislation will be developed with regard to the rights
set out in the Charter. New laws will require a statement of
compatibility to advise Parliament on whether they meet the
Courts will be able to refer legislation back to Parliament for
review if they find it is inconsistent with the Charter, but they
will not have the power to strike down legislation. The Parliament
will have the final say.
The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities strengthens
and supports our democratic system.
The Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria will be renamed the
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and
will help inform the community and report to the government on
Most parts of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities
will come into effect from 1 January 2007. The public sector will
be bound by the Charter from 1 January 2008. This is to allow for
practices and procedures to be changed if necessary.
We need a Charter because some basic rights, such as freedom
of speech, freedom of religion and freedom from forced work,
have no clear legal protection. Now all Victorians have clear
How the Charter benefits you and your family Human rights are
an important part of our community.
Human rights belong to everyone. Whether you’re a mum or dad
at home with the kids, a corporate high flyer or struggling to pay
the rent, these rights belong to you. Whether your family arrived
on these shores in the First Fleet, in the last few years or decades,
or in the last few thousand, the rights protected in the Victorian
Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities are your rights and
the rights of your neighbours, family and friends.
The Charter protects the rights of all Victorians and includes:
the right to privacy and freedom of speech
the protection of families and children
freedom from forced work.
This Charter will ensure that when current and future Victorian
governments make new laws and policies, they do so with our civil
and political rights in mind.
Equal Opportunity Commission Victoria
Advice Line (03) 9281 7100
Country callers toll-free – 1800 134 142
TTY service is available for the
Hearing impaired on (03) 9281 7110
Department of Justice
Translating and Interpreting Service is available on 131 450
Information is available in 11 different languages about the
Authorised by: Louise Martin, Victorian Department of Justice