On 1 January 2020, the Human Rights Act 2019 (the Act) came into operation in Queensland. The first phase of the Act involved the renaming of the Anti-Discrimination Commission as the Human Rights Commission on 1 July 2019. The Human Rights Commission now has the expanded function of receiving human rights complaints.
Prior to the Act, human rights had been protected in Queensland through common law and the Anti-Discrimination Act. Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination Act provides protection against unfair discrimination by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of attributes such as age, race, sex, impairment, gender identity, religious belief and political belief, to name a few. Discrimination is predominantly prohibited in work and work related areas, education, accommodation, supply of goods and services and in the administration of state laws.
In contrast, the Act seeks to provide protection for human rights in the decision-making and actions of public entities, and to promote a human rights culture in the Queensland public sector. Public entities include mainly government entities, government employees, the Queensland Police Service, local governments and ministers.
There are 23 human rights protected under the Act, including but not limited to the right to life, freedom of expression, right to privacy and reputation, the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, right to peaceful assembly, property rights and humane treatment when deprived of liberty. Human rights are not protected absolutely under the Act and are permitted to be limited.
There are no remedies available in compensation for a breach of an individual’s human rights and a decision by a public entity is not automatically invalid if breaching the Act.
If your human rights are breached as a result of a decision or action by a public entity, you may raise the issue directly with the relevant public entity at first stance. Your next step is to make a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. A conciliation conference between the parties may be held by the Human Rights Commission to assist in achieving an agreed outcome that takes into account your human rights. The Courts can make declarations about whether your human rights have been breached.
A human rights complaint may be added to an existing legal proceeding where an individual has a separate action against a public entity. While compensation is not available, a person may be entitled to other relief such as in the case of judicial review, quashing or setting the decision aside, or referring the decision back to the original decision maker for further consideration.
Rodney Sahay is a highly knowledgeable and astute Principal Solicitor at Stephens & Tozer with more than 30 years’ experience in a wide range of legal practice areas. Co-author, Michelle Xiao, is a Law Graduate gaining invaluable experience while working under the supervision of Rodney. Please contact us today if you require assistance or have a query.
15 January 2020