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It’s time to make the ACT Human Rights Act truly accessible to all – Human Rights Law Centre

The Australian Capital Territory’s Human Rights Act needs reforming to remove needless barriers that are making it harder for people to protect their human rights, warns the Human Rights Law Centre.  
In its submission to an inquiry reviewing remedies available under the Act, the Centre argues that unless a simple and accessible enforcement mechanism is introduced, the existing, once ground-breaking, legislation will continue to be limited in its practical use for those who need it most. 
The submission, No Rights without Remedy, calls for an accessible remedies process in which complaints can be made directly to the ACT Human Rights Commission, and if unresolved, escalated to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.  
This would be in addition to the existing, but complex and costly process available in the ACT Supreme Court.  
Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director Hugh de Kretser said:  
“The ACT was the first Australian jurisdiction to establish a Human Rights Act to legally protect many of the critical human rights we need to live a decent, dignified life. Its leadership paved the way for Victoria to follow suit with its Charter of Rights in 2006, and then Queensland in 2020.  
“The ACT Human Rights Act helps to ensure that the actions of ACT governments are guided by values of freedom, equality, compassion and dignity. But the Act is nearly 20 years old. It needs to be changed to make it simpler and easier for people to protect their human rights. At the moment, people have to take legal action in the complex, expensive and inaccessible Supreme Court. Supreme Court action is out of reach for most people. 
“Rights must have remedies. People need a simple and easy way to protect their rights. The Human Rights Act should be changed to allow people to make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission for mediation. If the complaint isn’t resolved at mediation, people should have the power to take action in the accessible and low-cost ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal. 
“Reforming the Human Rights Act in this way will help to ensure that equality and fairness are at the heart of the ACT Government’s decisions.  A new and improved Human Rights Act can once again position the ACT as a leader in protecting human rights.” 
Read the Human Rights Law Centre submission here
Media contact:
Evan Schuurman, Media and Communications Manager, 0406 117 937 or evan.schuurman@hrlc.org.au
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