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Earlier this month sparked the beginning stages of the implementation of the Human Rights Act (“the Act”) that was passed in Queensland on 27 February 2019. As part of the first stage of the implementation of the Act, the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland has become the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

What else is changing other than the name of the Commission?

Changes will begin to take place from the 1st of January 2020 where 23 rights will be protected under the Act. Before the Act, there were only a number of rights that were protected by common law and legislation. The new Act seeks to protect individuals that fall under the activities of a public entity. These entities include, but are not limited to, state and local governments, Ministers, Queensland Police Service, state schools, public servants, non-government organisations and businesses performing a public function.[1]

How will the Act affect current practices?

The Act will necessitate changes for policies and procedures that affect public entities. Decisions that are made by public entities will be required to be consistent with the rights that are protected by the Act. Local and state governments will also be affected as laws will need to be scrutinized against the protections that the new Act provides.

This also means that if breaches do occur there are steps that need to be taken in the reporting of a breach to the Queensland Human Rights Commission. These steps begin with reporting of a complaint to the public entity, the public entity then has 45 days to respond, and if no resolution has been made or an inadequate response given, a complaint can be made to the Queensland Human Rights Commission.

Rights that will be protected include:

  • Your right to recognition and equality before the law;
  • Your right to life;
  • Your right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;
  • Your right to freedom from forced work;
  • Your right to freedom of movement;
  • Your right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief;
  • Your right to freedom of expression;
  • Your right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association;
  • Your right to take part in public life;
  • Property rights;
  • Your right to privacy and reputation;
  • Your right to protection of families and children;
  • Cultural rights – generally;
  • Cultural rights – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • Your right to liberty and security of person;
  • Your right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty;
  • Your right to a fair hearing;
  • Rights in criminal proceedings;
  • Rights of children in the criminal process;
  • Right not to be tried or punished more than once;
  • Retrospective criminal laws;
  • Right to education; and
  • Right to health services.

What do you need to do before 1 January 2020?

Public entities that will be impacted by this Act should familiarise themselves with the Act, review their policies and procedures and roll out staff training to educate staff about their rights under the Act and what steps they can take if there is a contravention.

If this article has raised any concerns for you or your organisation please do not hesitate to contact either John Hayward or Jessika Reghenzani on (07) 4046 1124, for advice specific to your circumstances. 

This article has been prepared with the assistance of Ruby Hedrick, law graduate.


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