In October 2020, the VWT signed on to the Australian Charter of Rights and Freedoms campaign along with 50+ other organisations, supporting the drive to ensure that the human rights of all Australians are respected and upheld, not just for those of us who are living in states or territories which have human rights legislation (currently Vic, QLD and ACT). Research & advocacy officer Casimira Melican asked campaign manager Daney Faddoul about the campaign.
Q: Hi Daney. VWT is so thrilled to be on board with the campaign! It’s a pretty sad indictment that Australia is the only western democracy without a Charter of Human Rights or an equivalent legal protection. How are you trying to build an appetite for a Charter of Rights amongst the community in Australia? What are you hoping to achieve with a more grassroots campaign?
A: First I’d like to say that it’s very exciting that VWT is joining the campaign, thank you!
Our approach is explain, unite and advocate. We need to explain what a Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is, and what benefits it provides to a community broadly unaware of what it means. We need to bring supporters, both individuals and organisations, together so that the call for a Charter cuts through in the midst of the day to day issues. Finally, advocate to decision makers about how much benefit a Charter of Human Rights will provide and show the strong community support for it. This is the way to win a Charter that reflects the values of fairness, equality, compassion and dignity, and provide the biggest benefits to the community.
Q: 2020 has been quite a year in terms of public discussion and contestation around the tension between individual rights and the rights of wider communities, how have you seen that playing out in Australia?
A: As there is currently no nationwide Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, it’s been quite scattered. Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights has provided a framework to help balance rights when it comes to the right to health and life and freedom of movement. We don’t have a framework nationally, so by comparison there is less balance of rights with citizens and permanent residents wanting to leave or enter Australia with the travel ban in place. But there’s another element that has had less attention, and that’s where both individual and collective rights are on the same side, like dignified and safe aged care, every student being able to access education, or ensuring everyone has a secure roof over their heads. In this crisis there’s been a scramble to resolve issues, but this could have been handled better if human rights were always at the heart of how those services are provided, and the people accessing those services have rights they can enforce.
Q: Who will gain from an Australian Charter of Rights?
A: Everyone, and those most marginalised and disadvantaged benefit the most.
Q: How can individuals and groups inform themselves about your campaign and get involved?
A: Find out more, and support the campaign, at charterofrights.org.au
On 28 October 2020, the Campaign had an event UnChartered: Health, Housing, Human Rights, and COVID-19 and the video is available to watch online.
Casimira Melican (research & advocacy officer) has been at the VWT since 2015. In 2016, Casimira co-wrote the VWT’s menstrual and menopause workplace wellbeing policy (also know as the menstrual leave policy) and has been leading advocacy on the policy since then. Casimira is passionate about the ability for policy and research to have real world impact and empower women and non-binary individuals within our society.
Daney Faddoul joined the Human Rights Law Centre in March 2020 and focuses on the campaign to create an Australian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Daney studied law at the University of West Sydney and is passionate about creating an Australian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, because it will help prevent human rights violations from occurring, will be a powerful tool for people and communities to challenge injustice, and will foster better understanding and respect for human rights within the community.