A community health care nurse had been trying to help an asylum seeker address serious health issues. But the hospital she’d been in contact with refused medical services to this ‘alien’ because she as an asylum seeker couldn’t pay (asylum seekers aren’t covered under Medicare). However the nurse attended training on how to use the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. She used that to question the hospital’s senior staff about their responsibilities under the Charter. As a result of the nurse’s email the hospital realised it had not been following a Health Department directive to provide asylum seekers and refugees medical services at no charge. The hospital then issued a directive to staff advising them to provide medical services to asylum seekers. The Charter helped a large public institution realise its responsibilities and act on them.
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you
shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God. (Lev 19:34)
A 23 year old Iraqi refugee with a severe intellectual disability and autism was placed by a Government department in unsuitable supported accommodation. There were no Arabic speaking workers in the accommodation facility and the young man’s ability to observe his religion (by, for example, eating Halal food) and contact his family were seriously limited. He was lonely and miserable. The young man’s advocate raised the Charter with the relevant public authority and rather than being forcibly returned to the supported accommodation, he was allowed to reside in his family home,
where he wished to be.
*Source*: Youth Affairs Council of Victoria.
A pregnant single mother with two children was living in community housing. She was given an eviction notice, which didn’t provide any reasons for the eviction, or allow her to address the landlord’s concerns. The Victorian Charter was used to negotiate with her landlord to prevent an eviction into homelessness, and reach an alternative agreement.
The Melbourne Custody Centre (’MCC’) is run by GEO Group Australia (’GEO’) on behalf of Victoria Police. In 2007, there was an incident of excessive use of force by staff against a detainee, in breach of the detainee’s human rights. Following the incident, Victoria Police held workshops with GEO staff and facilitated risk assessment workshops to examine all aspects of the MCC’s operation. The risk assessment led to modifications to guidelines and staff training aimed to better protect detainee’s human rights. The modifications included: changes to search procedures (to ensure a person is never fully naked during the search); changes to reception processes that involve collecting personal information to enhance privacy; and increased responsiveness to detainees’ needs associated with religious beliefs.
*Source*: Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, *Emerging Change: The 2008 Report on the Operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities* (2009).