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Right to life

Section 9 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) means every person has the right to life and the right to not have their life taken. It also requires governments to protect the right to life. The Charter applies to public authorities in Victoria, such as state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of the government.

How does the law protect me?

Every person has the right to life, and public authorities in Victoria must respect your right to life when using force, delivering medical treatment or examining their own conduct if someone dies in their care. The right to life applies from the time someone is born, and the Charter does not apply to abortion laws in Victoria (section 46).

Under this right, public authorities have both positive duties (things they must do) and negative duties (things they must not do). 

Positive duties

To protect your right to life, public authorities must have a framework of laws, policies, procedures and training to guide their activities. They have a duty to warn the Victorian public about life threatening hazards, and a special duty of care to protect the life of people within their care – for example, in prisons, detention centres, medical facilities, or state care. Health authorities must account for the way they use their resources and situations in which they deny life-saving treatment. If a public authority deprives someone of life, they have a duty to investigate the death. 

Negative duties

Public authorities must not arbitrarily or intentionally deprive someone of life. In some situations, it may be necessary for public authorities, such as the police or military, to use lethal force, but this can only occur when it is ‘absolutely necessary’ and must be ‘strictly proportionate’ to the degree of danger.

Can this right be limited in any way?

As well as being covered by the Charter, the right to life is also covered by international law. It is considered a non-derogable right – that means the government cannot limit or suspend this right under any circumstances.

How we can help

We can give you information about Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities but we do not handle complaints related to the Charter.

If you would like more information about the Charter and your rights, please contact us.

For information about the legal history of this right, case law or Australia’s human rights framework, you can read more in our Policy and Legal sections of our website.

How to make a human rights complaint

If you think your human rights have been breached, you should contact the Victorian Ombudsman.

If you want to make a complaint about police conduct, contact the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

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The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges that we work on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We also work remotely and serve communities on the lands of other Traditional Custodians.

We pay our respects to their Elders past and present.