Charter complaints and remedies
People have the right to complain about acts and decisions of public authorities under the Charter and seek remedies. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) doesn’t handle complaints under the Charter, but we can intervene in court cases about the Charter. We can also carry out reviews upon request to ensure a public authority’s policies, programs and practices are compatible with the Charter.
Complaints under the Charter
There are a number of different ways that people can complain and seek a remedy in relation to their human rights under the Charter.
Individuals can raise a complaint about human rights directly with any public authority through their internal complaint handling procedures.
Public authorities can demonstrate best practice by managing human rights complaints consistently with the Charter and the public sector values. The Good Practice Guide: Managing Complaints Involving Human Rights (see Part 7: Further resources) provides practical guidance to help public authorities effectively deal with complaints about human rights.
Individuals can also raise a complaint about human rights to an independent body.
- Victorian Ombudsman
The Victorian Ombudsman is an independent officer who investigates complaints about state government departments, most statutory authorities and local government. In certain instances, people can make a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman that their human rights have been breached. The Ombudsman can initiate investigations into breaches of the Charter and can review the lawfulness of a public authority’s actions or decisions.
- Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC)
IBAC is an anti-corruption agency responsible for identifying and preventing corruption and police misconduct across the public sector. Anyone can complain to IBAC about public sector corruption and police misconduct. One of IBAC’s roles is to ensure that police officers and protective services officers have regard to the human rights set out in the Charter.
- Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO)
VAGO conduct audits to ensure that public sector entities are transparent and accountable to the Victorian Parliament and the community. In certain instances, VAGO can undertake reviews to explore whether the practice of a public authority complies with the Charter.
- Other oversight bodies
The Charter can be raised with other complaints handling bodies such as the Health Services Commission, the Public Transport Ombudsman Victoria, the Office of the Public Advocate, the Mental Health Complaints Commission, the Commission for Children and Young People, the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, the Disability Services Commissioner, the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, and the Dispute Settlement Centre Victoria.
Please note: VEOHRC does not handle complaints related to the Charter.
Raising the Charter in courts and tribunals
There is no direct cause of action under the Charter. This means that people cannot make complaints directly to courts and tribunals for breaches of the Charter alone.
The Charter only allows a person to raise human rights if they already have an existing ground under another law based on the same act or decision (such as an administrative law or common law ground).
For example, if a person makes a claim of discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), the person can also raise their rights under the Charter (such as the right to equality) with VCAT.
Courts and tribunals will consider questions of whether the public authority:
- gave proper consideration to human rights when making decisions; or
- acted compatibly with human rights.
Action before the courts
The Charter gives the Attorney-General and VEOHRC a statutory right to intervene in legal proceedings where a question of law arises about the application of the Charter or the interpretation of another law in light of the Charter.
VEOHRC may also intervene where the Supreme Court is considering making a declaration of inconsistent interpretation.
Our review function
A public authority may request VEOHRC review its policies, programs and practices to assess their compatibility with the Charter.
Reviews may be requested for a number of reasons and at different points in the life cycle of a policy or practice.
For example a public authority may request a review to:
- have an independent assessment of whether a practice, policy or program is compatible with the Charter
- provide input at the time new policies or programs are being implemented or developed
- assist with the implementation of new legislation or functions
- review existing human rights training or compliance strategies.
Our approach to conducting a review is consultative and flexible. We consult with the public authority to set the scope of the review and agree upon the areas of operation and policy to include.
VEOHRC also undertakes reviews at the request of the Attorney-General.
The Attorney-General can, at any time, request VEOHRC undertake a review of the effect of statutory provisions and the common law on human rights set out in the Charter.
For information about our review function contact firstname.lastname@example.org.