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The public sector and human rights

Human rights are basic entitlements that belong to everyone regardless of their background, location, differences or beliefs. The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities sets out 20 fundamental human rights that belong to all people in Victoria. The rights under the Charter come from international human rights treaties which Australia has joined. The language of human rights is similar all over the world, which gives the Charter legitimacy and shared purpose.

Human rights under the Charter

Charter rights are adapted from international human rights instruments including the:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, which Australia ratified in 1980.

Many Charter rights also reflect traditional rights protected by the common law in Australia, including freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence and property rights.

The Charter recognises that human rights have special importance for the Aboriginal people of Victoria, as descendants of Australia’s first people, with their diverse spiritual, social, cultural and economic relationship with their traditional lands and waters.

Charter rights are largely based on civil and political rights, rather than economic and social rights.

Read more about Australia’s human rights framework.

The Charter protects 20 basic rights and freedoms in Victoria

Participation and human rights

People should be able to meaningfully contribute to decision-making and the design of government policies, programs and projects that affect them. A simple rule of thumb is ‘nothing about us, without us’.

Genuine participation in decision-making and the development of government action – as opposed to a ‘top down’ approach – helps ensure that decisions and actions can be successfully implemented on the ground and deliver meaningful outcomes.

As best human rights practice, where possible and appropriate, people who may be affected by the decisions and actions of public authorities should have the opportunity to participate in the process. This should include the people who may directly benefit or be affected by a decision or action, and the people who will be responsible for implementing it.

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities: A guide for Victorian public sector workers – Jan 2024

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Level 3, 204 Lygon Street Carlton Victoria 3053

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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.