Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)

Category: Legislation
Binomial Name: State of Victoria
Date: 1 January 2008
Sub Category:Legislation
State/Country:Victoria, Australia
Legal Status:

Assented 1 January 2008

Subject Matter:Law - Policy and Justice
Summary Information:

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) (the Charter) is a Victorian law that sets out twenty basic rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of all Victorian people. It came into full effect on 1 January 2008.

Detailed Information:

Background (Williams, 2006)

In May 2004, Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls issued a Justice Statement that outlined a decade-long plan proposing new directions for the Victorian Justice System. The statement pointed to the need for a public discussion about the possibility of the Charter of Rights. The following May, a four-person committee (the Committee) was created to engage and consult the community on the matter. The Committee was given six months, until 30 November 2005, to report on their findings.

After extensive community consultation (including 2,524 written submissions), the Committee recommended that the Victorian Parliament enact a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. This was accepted by the Brack Government in December 2005.

The Charter is the second charter of rights in Australia, the first being the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT).

Recognition of Indigenous Australians

The preamble to the Charter states that the Charter is founded on the principle that:

'human rights have a special importance for the Aboriginal people of Victoria, as descendants of Australia's first people, with their diverse spiritual, social, cultural and economic relationship with their traditional lands and waters.'

Government Responsibility

  • The Charter protects human rights in Victoria by placing responsibilities on the three areas of government: Public authorities must act compatibly with human rights and must consider relevant human rights when making decisions. Public authorities include government departments, local government and council, Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Parliament must consider human rights when making new laws. A Statement of Compatibility must be tabled in Parliament when a new law is proposed, explaining whether it is compatible with the rights set out in the Charter. Bills are also reviewed by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee, which will then issue a report on a bill's compatibility with human rights.
  • Courts and tribunals must interpret and apply laws compatible with human rights. The Supreme Court of Victoria may also declare that a law is inconsistent with human rights, though it does not have the power to strike it down on this basis. 

Cultural Rights

The Charter provides a right to culture for minority groups. This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria. These rights include the right to enjoy one's culture, to declare and practice one's religion, and to use one's language. 

Section 19(2) also explicitly provides:

'Aboriginal persons hold distinct cultural rights and must not be denied the right, with other members of their community -

(a) to enjoy their identity and culture; and

(b) to maintain and use their language; and 

(c) to maintain their kinship ties; and

(d) to maintain their distinctive spiritual, material, and economic relationship with the land and waters and other resources with which they have a connection under traditional laws and customs.'

Overview of rights protected by the Charter

  • Right of recognition and equal treatment before the law
  • Right to life
  • Protection from torture and cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment
  • Freedom from forced work or slavery
  • Right to move freely within Victoria, to enter and leave, and to choose where to live
  • Right to privacy and protection of reputation
  • Freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief
  • Right to hold an opinion and freedom of expression
  • Right to assemble peacefully (e.g. peaceful protest) and to join groups (e.g. political, sport or union groups)
  • Protection of families and children
  • Right to take part in public life, including the right to vote 
  • Right to enjoy culture, practice religion, and speak one's chosen language 
  • Right not to be deprived of property without lawful reason
  • Right to liberty and security, including the right to not be arrested or detained without lawful reason
  • Right to be treated humanely when arrested or detained
  • Protection of children in the criminal process, including separation from detained adults and treatment in an age-appropriate way
  • Right to a fair and public hearing, and to have a charge or hearing decided by an independent and impartial court or tribunal
  • Rights in criminal proceedings including the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty 
  • Right not be tried or punished for the same crime twice
  • Right not to be found guilty of a crime on the basis of behaviour that was not illegal at the time it occured.

Related Entries

  • State of Victoria
  • Legislation
  • Constitution Act 1975 (Vic)
  • Case Law
  • Cemino v Cannan [2018] VSC 535

  • References

    General Reference
    George Willams (December 2006) 'Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities: Lessons for the National Debate'
    Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission Aboriginal Cultural Rights
    Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT)