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Right to protection of cultural rights

Section 19 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) protects your right to participate in your culture, practise your religion and use your language. This section also recognises that First Nations peoples hold distinct cultural rights.


The Charter applies to public authorities in Victoria, such as state and local government departments and agencies, and people delivering services on behalf of government.

How does the law protect me?

Culture, language and religious beliefs can be central parts of our identity, and they allow us to participate actively and fully in our community. In some situations, First Nations peoples and people from multicultural and multifaith communities may find it difficult to enjoy their culture and traditions. The Charter provides specific protection for cultural rights. 

The right to enjoy culture

Under the Charter, you have a right to enjoy your culture, practise your religion and use your language. This right applies to all sorts of cultural, religious, racial or linguistic backgrounds. 

Aboriginal cultural rights

Under the Charter, First Nations peoples have the right to enjoy their identity and culture, to maintain and use their language, and maintain their kinship ties to members of their community. 

The Charter also recognises the special relationship First Nations peoples have with the land, water and resources in Victoria. This relationship could be spiritual, material or economic and may be connected to traditional laws and customs. This right also protects your access to  cultural institutions, ancestral lands, natural resources and traditional knowledge.

Special measures

This section of the Charter requires public authorities to adopt measures that protect and promote cultural diversity and inclusion. This could include measures and programs to support people from First Nations communities, or multicultural or multifaith communities, to engage freely in their cultural practices so they can preserve their cultures.

Can this right be limited in any way?

In some circumstances, one person’s right may come into conflict with the right of another person or group. In these circumstances, it can be necessary to limit or restrict these rights. Under section 7(2) of the Charter, rights may be limited in certain circumstances, but it must be reasonable, necessary, justified and proportionate.

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.

Aboriginal cultural rights (June 2018)

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First Nations rights

It is against the law to treat you unfairly or bully you because you are First Nations.

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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.