Policy Submission: The Protection and Promotion of the Human Rights of People Living with Disability
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This submission is in response to the Australian Government’s National Human Rights Consultation. Its purpose is to suggest ways to the Australian Government in which the human rights of Australian people living with disability can be better protected and promoted. In preparing this submission we have accessed the experience and expertise of Mr Ross Brereton, former Human Rights Commissioner in New Zealand, himself a person living with disability continuing
Recommendation 1 - Introduction of a National Human Rights Act
Australia is “the only democracy in the world that does not, at a national level, have specific legislated protections of our human rights”. The introduction of a legally binding national Human Rights Act would not only bring Australia into line with other countries, but it would ensure that an overarching piece of legislation exists to guide the promotion and protection of all our human rights. Importantly the introduction of this legislation is a priority as it will further “strengthen present anti discrimination legislation and the potential impact of international human rights covenants and conventions.
The rights and responsibilities identified in the UN Disability Convention need to be included in a Human Rights Act to provide the protection and promotion of the human rights of people living with disability that are not currently or adequately covered constitutionally, legislatively or through common law. This focus would also enable Australia to demonstrate how it is meeting its obligations highlighted in this convention.
Recommendation 2 - Public awareness and education
In making the following recommendation about public awareness, we must emphasise that such a recommendation is supplementary to the main recommendation regarding legislation. To only opt for an awareness program, without corresponding legislation, will not significantly change the issues for people living with disability. The current “lack of public awareness and understanding is a primary barrier to the protection of disabled people’s human rights and to their effective participation in all aspects of society”. Therefore there needs to be a strong focus on raising awareness within the community about how a national Human Rights Act can affect change and the importance of people living with disability having their human rights respected.
Recpommendation 3 - The provision of adequate funding and resources from government
To promote a change in culture in Australia that recognises and respects the human rights of all its citizens, sufficient resources and funding are required to implement a national Human Rights Act and provide public education and training about human rights. Adequate resources and support mechanisms also need to be made available to assist people living with disability to exercise their rights and be in control of how they want to live their lives.