Jesuit Social Services believes that every person living in Australia needs to have their rights and freedoms protected. For over 45 years we have taken a rights-based approach in both advocacy and provision of services for those  experiencing systemic disadvantage.

Australia is the only liberal democracy in the world not to have either a Federal Human Rights Act or a Bill of Rights in their constitution, meaning that many of our fundamental rights and freedoms are not protected. This not only impacts every person in Australia, but particularly those who already experience existing barriers and systemic disadvantage.

Jesuit Social Services believes that more needs to be done to protect human rights on a national level and supports the call for the establishment of a Federal Human Rights Act in Australia. We recently responded to the Inquiry into Australia’s Human Rights Framework, led by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights where we outline five key recommendations in our submission.

Summary of our recommendations:

Recommendation 1: That the Federal Government enact a Human Rights Act in order to better protect our fundamental rights and freedoms in Australia, which currently lack sufficient protection. A federal Human Rights Act would:

  • Prevent further human rights infringements from occurring
  • Give the government an opportunity to develop a more proactive approach in addressing systemic disadvantage
  • Give a pathway to justice for victims, as well as increasing governmental accountability

Recommendation 2: A Human Rights Act needs to protect the specific rights and freedoms of those who are the most marginalised and face existing systemic barriers in Australia. This includes having proactive approaches and special measures.

Recommendation 3: A Human Rights Act needs to protect specific population groups, including, but not limited to:

  • All genders, including men, women and all gender expressions and identities
  • Anyone who is detained
  • New and emerging human rights, such as LGBTQIA+, climate justice and place-based disadvantages
  • Experiences of intersectionality
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, involving implementing special measures, particularly the need for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner

Recommendation 4: A Human Rights Act needs to protect civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights (ESCR) in a Human Rights Act, including specific ESCR of distinct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural rights, the right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to secure housing, and freedom from poverty and entrenched disadvantage.

Recommendation 5: A Human Rights Act that specifically protects civil and political rights of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.