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Right to recognition and equality before the law

Section 8 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) means that all Victorians have the right to be recognised as a person, to enjoy their rights without discrimination, to be treated equally under the law and protected from discrimination. 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?

Section 8 of the Charter protects three different but related rights, and explains how special measures are allowed for certain groups.

The right to recognition as a person before the law

Some countries don’t allow certain groups to be counted as ‘people’ – for example, women or particular ethnic groups. Under the Charter, you must be recognised as a ‘person’ before the law, which means you have equal rights to access services and to be treated fairly by the law.

The right to enjoy other human rights free from discrimination

Every Victorian has the same rights and deserves the same level of respect. Under the Charter, laws, policies and programs should not be discriminatory, and you have the right to exercise your human rights without discrimination. This means that you cannot be treated unfavourably because of your personal characteristics protected by the law.

The right to the protection of the law without discrimination

Every Victorian is protected by our legal system. Under the Charter, you are entitled to equal protection of the law without discrimination. 

The Charter recognises that some people or groups – such as people with disabilities or Aboriginal Victorians – have historically been disadvantaged or discriminated against. It allows for certain actions, known as special measures, to help advance these people or groups, which does not count as discrimination against others.

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.