2019 Report on the operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities – Nov 2020
The 2019 report on the operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (the Charter) was tabled in Parliament by the Attorney-General in November 2020.
In 2019, Victoria made strong progress towards better protection of human rights.
This report focuses on the following key human rights issues from the year: systemic racism and Aboriginal deaths in custody, treaty and self-determination, gender equality and diversity, and racial and religious tolerance.
Victoria led the nation by being the first jurisdiction to commit to a treaty process with Aboriginal peoples through legislation. This process provides a practical means by which self-determination may be realised by Aboriginal Victorians.
The report also examines how the Charter broadened the scope of the coroner’s investigation into Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day’s death to include the extent to which systemic racism played a part. This resulted in landmark findings that the V/Line officer’s treatment of Tanya was influenced by her Aboriginality. The case was also the impetus for the Government’s welcome commitment to decriminalise public drunkenness.
The Victorian Parliament passed its landmark gender equality law which aims to promote and facilitate the achievement of gender equality and improvement in the status of women. Parliament also passed reforms to our birth certificate laws that greatly assist trans and gender diverse Victorians to live their true identity.
In 2019 Victoria’s first successful prosecution of serious vilification was upheld in Cottrell v Ross. On appeal the County Court held that the prohibition on hateful conduct in the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic) does not unreasonably limit Charter rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, freedom of expression and to take part in public life.
The report also includes chapters about the Charter’s impact in courts and tribunals, law-making and building a culture of human rights. We have also included summaries of key cases and legislation.
Two additional resources – Highlights from the 2019 report and the Charter Explainer demonstrate the value of the Charter. The Charter is more than just a compliance tool, it is a legal and ethical frame which animates the rights and experiences of everyday Victorians.