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Human rights culture

Protecting human rights in Victoria requires more than just complying with the law. It requires a human rights culture – a pattern of shared attitudes, values and behaviours that influence the policy-making, decisions and practices of government to uphold human rights of all people. A culture of human rights requires public authorities to understand their duties to respect, protect and promote human rights. It also requires rights holders – people in Victoria to know their rights and how to take action.

A protester holds up a colourful sign which reads: 'True love is born from understanding'

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Benefits of a human rights culture

For government

  • Builds relationship with the community
  • Identifies problem areas
  • Improves democratic legitimacy by demonstrating to the Victorian community a genuine commitment to human rights
  • Connects Victoria with international efforts to translate human rights goals and standards into results for the people of Victoria
  • Reinforces other work, for example, safety, equality, multiculturalism

For community members and advocates

  • Assists government to make decisions that consider rights
  • Establishes clear non-negotiable legal standards
  • Strengthens cases where change is needed
  • Empowers individuals
  • Contributes to a fairer and more inclusive society
  • Encourages community participation in decision-making

For public authorities

  • Improves quality of service design, in particular for the most marginalised, excluded and disadvantaged in our community
  • Improves decision-making by providing a legal framework to identify, assess and balance human rights against other rights and interests
  • Helps manage organisational risks, such as litigation
  • Builds reputation and credibility
  • Creates a framework for solving problems

For staff

  • Inspires staff
  • Reconnects staff with core public service values
  • Gives staff a framework to act lawfully and with a moral compass when dealing with people

Practical ways to build human rights culture

Developing a strong culture of human rights can enhance the effectiveness of the Charter. It can inspire and connect public sector staff with Victorian values, improve service design and delivery, build relationships with community, direct services to issues of public concern, and contribute to a fairer and more inclusive society.

Building a culture of human rights requires commitment over the long term. It begins with everyone understanding their rights and ensuring all arms of government understand their responsibilities to apply the Charter.
The Commission is supporting public authorities to build and strengthen a culture of human rights in Victoria, in the following ways:

  • by developing a Human Rights Culture Indicator Framework
  • delivering human rights education services and resources
  • reporting on Victoria’s human rights culture in the annual Charter Report
  • publishing a Public Sector Guide to the Charter

These are set out in more detail below.

Human Rights Culture Indicator Framework

During 2017 and 2018, the Commission worked collaboratively with a range of public, community and private organisations to develop a practical framework for identifying actions, indicators and measures to track improvements in human rights culture within public authorities. This was in response to calls from public authorities for guidance on practical ways of building a human rights culture within their organisations.

The Human Rights Culture Indicator Framework (Framework) provides a roadmap for public authorities to embed human rights and provides a transparent framework for the Commission to monitor the growth of human rights culture within organisations.

The Framework identifies six influences on a positive human rights culture:

  • engaged leadership
  • attitudes and values of employees
  • transparency and accountability
  • community engagement and participation
  • operational capability – knowledge and resourcing
  • systems and processes.

Charter Reports

Each year,the Commission reports on the operation of the Charter in its Charter Report, which is tabled in Parliament. Since 2016, the Charter Report has featured information on Victoria’s growing culture of human rights, including case studies, surveys of public authorities and community feedback.

View previous Charter reports under Resources.

Human rights education

The Commission delivers face-to-face education to a variety of public authorities including across government departments, agencies, statutory authorities, local government and functional public authorities.

Education services vary in focus, including awareness raising on rights and obligations, a deeper understanding of obligations, and action planning for human rights cultural change.

Leadership support and executive briefings are often provided to ensure the organisation’s key messages are agreed and the role of leaders in supporting the education is emphasised.

The education services are designed in partnership with individual work areas enabling the content to specifically incorporate realistic workplace scenarios to apply the Charter in day-to-day roles.

The Commission has also developed a suite of six eLearning modules designed to introduce public sector audiences to the Charter. The modules provide baseline awareness of rights and obligations under the Charter and can be used as part of a blended learning approach with face-to-face training.

There are six modules on the following topics:

  1. An overview of the Charter
  2. Protected rights and obligations under the Charter
  3. What it means to build a culture of human rights in Victoria
  4. Complaints and Remedies
  5. The Legislative Process
  6. Courts and Tribunal

The modules are freely available. Find out more about how to use the modules in Online Education.

The Public Sector Guide to the Charter

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – A guide for Victorian public sector workers is a practical publication to help public sector employees build their human rights knowledge and capability to apply their Charter responsibilities and contribute to a strong human rights culture.

The Guide supports public authorities to:

  • learn about the Charter and how it works
  • contribute to a culture of human rights
  • get to know the rights in the Charter
  • understand legal obligations and work out when it’s lawful to limit rights
  • learn about complaints and remedies
  • find out where to go for more information

Also available is a Quick guide to the Charter outlining the important steps for public authorities to act compatibly with the Charter. It is designed to print on an A4 page and fold into a booklet.

View and download the Charter guide publications under Resources.

2015 Review of the Charter

As a new and developing law, Victoria’s Charter required a review after four years of operation and again after eight years of operation. These reviews provided an important opportunity to strengthen and build understanding of the role the Charter plays to improve human rights outcomes for all Victorians.

The eight-year review of the Charter (the 2015 Review) was led by Mr Michael Brett Young, CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria until 2014 and previously managing partner at Maurice Blackburn.

The 2015 Review looked at ways to enhance the effectiveness of the Charter and improve its operation.

From Commitment to Culture: The 2015 Review of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, was tabled in Parliament on 17 September 2015 and is the result of eight open public forums, 60 meetings across the state and more than 100 submissions made by interested individuals and organisations.

The Commission had a statutory role to assist in the 2015 Review, and provided support in relation to the community consultation. We also provided a detailed submission to the Review.

The 2015 Review made 11 recommendations out of 52 directed toward building a culture of human rights in Victoria.

Find out more about the 2015 Review

Human rights culture indicator framework – Oct 2021

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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.