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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 Aboriginal people 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, Aboriginal Victorians 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, Aboriginal Victorians 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 Aboriginal Victorians 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 Aboriginal 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 the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission does not handle complaints related to the Charter.

If you would like more information about the Charter and your rights 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 this 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.

Related resources

Aboriginal Cultural Rights – Jun 2018


Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

General enquiries

1300 891 848

Enquiry line
1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583

1300 152 494

NRS Voice Relay
1300 555 727 then use 1300 292 153

Media enquiries
0447 526 642

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Australians and recognises their culture, history, diversity and deep connection to the land.

We acknowledge that the Commission is on the land of the Kulin Nation and pay our respects to Elders past and present.