The following quotes are from submissions to the four-year review of Victoria’s Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Act (2006). They come from a range of organisations which interact with needy, vulnerable and disadvantaged people. A number of these organisations themselves represent many others, such as Catholic Social Services Victoria (peak body for 40 Catholic agencies) and National Disability Services (200 Victorian disability providers).
“Vision Australia believes in the Charter as a force for good and a beacon for change in the lives of Victorians who are blind or who have low vision. We consider that Victorians and the Charter ought to be strengthened through the introduction of economic, social and cultural rights and by scheduling the UN CRPD to the Charter as an interpretive document. People who are blind or who have low vision remain at the margins in large parts of Australian society and we believe that Victoria can lead the way forward to true equity and dignity through its human rights focus.” (p7, Vision Australia submission)
“Children are a vulnerable group who require special safeguards and protection from adults, including Government. The fact that children have little political power or influence overthe institutions and laws that govern their lives, means that it is critical that their rights are protected in legislation such as the Charter for Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.” (Save the Children Australia submission, p1)
“The experience of our individual advocates has been that no cases have reached a point where matters needed to go to court. The existence of the Charter has provided advocates for vulnerable people who rely on the State for services and support, an important tool that provides leverage where blanket policies and procedures fail to take into account individual circumstances… VALID strongly supports the Victorian Charter and the contribution it has already made to the well being and protection of those it is funded to support and encourages those undertaking this review to look at the issues under consideration through the eyes of those who need stronger protection of the rights as the primary beneficiaries of such a Charter.” (Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disabilities [VALID] submission, pp1 & 5)
“DVRCV recommends that stronger provisions be introduced into the Charter to address the prevalence and harm caused by domestic violence in the community… The recognition that domestic violence is a violation of human rights in the Charter would strengthen the message in Victoria that violence against women and family violence is not acceptable, and would support provisions in the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 enacted to protect victims and provide a statutory response to situations of domestic violence.” (Domestic Violence Centre Victoria submission, pp1-2)
“ECCV believes that the mere presence of the Charter has made more Victorians aware of the rights of others and more considerate of their dignity. More specifically, it has made vulnerable Victorians more aware of their rights and opportunities for redress, which ECCV believes to be a positive. EECV notes that the Charter has also helped to form the basis of organisational codes of practise and at a local and community level [sic] to improve interpersonal and intercommunal engagement.” (Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria submission, p9)
Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) is the peak organisation of the non-government, social and community services sector in Victoria. Its submission states:
“It is clear that the Victorian Charter has had a positive impact across a range of areas, despite it being in operation for only four years. Public authorities, including community sector organisations (CSOs), have invested in building human rights processes across policy and practice within their organisations and they have become more accountable in relation to human rights, both of which have enhanced the outcomes achieved for the people their organisations work with. The Victorian Charter has also allowed for greater transparency of process and decision making by public authorities… The Victorian Charter provides a necessary complimentary and supplementary layer of accountability. For example, the Victorian Charter has been central to a number of recent Ombudsman Victoria investigations and reports, including in relation to child protection –Investigation into the failure of agencies to manage registered sex offenders, and youth justice – Investigation into conditions at Melbourne Youth Justice precinct.”
(VCOSS submission, p21)
“Within the Community-Managed Mental Health Sector, the Charter has significantly impacted how quality improvement is considered and translated into action. Whilst this sector is grounded in values arising from social justice, the Charter has strengthened the human rights basis of service provision and evaluation… The Charter has proven to be a good tool in drawing attention to human rights breaches as well as in increasing scrutiny of performance of functions by public authorities. Scrutiny has assisted in improving practices, driving innovation and proving better services.” (Psychiatric Disability Services of Victoria submission, pp3-4)
“Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service supports the Charter because of its demonstrated benefit to the Victorian community, especially to disadvantaged groups. The investment associated with the Charter contributes to a process of strengthening accountability between the people and the Victorian Government and offers community benefits that are not easy to measure or quantify on a traditional cost-benefit analysis. Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service has embraced the Charter and used it to guide us in the development of our internal policies and to ground service delivery models. Furthermore, as a result of the introduction of the Victorian Charter, we have noted that both government and public authorities, including community based service delivery agencies, have seen their services improve as human rights and the dignity of clients become more central to the work.” (Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service submission, p2)
“NDS strongly supports the operation of the Charter and advocates for it to be strengthened.” (submission by National Disability Services, p1.) NDS is the disability industry representative body, with around 700 non-government members Australia-wide. With almost 200 Victorian members, NDS Victoria has extensive and representative coverage of disability service providers across the State.
“Community Child Care (CCC) as the peak body for community based children’s services in Victoria welcomes the opportunity to respond the Review of the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities Act (2006). CCC believes that the Charter is an important statutory mechanism to uphold the rights of Victorians, however CCC believes there are some important changes that could be made to better ensure the rights of Victorians are protected and upheld.” [inclusion of social, cultural and economic rights] (Community Child Care submission, p1)
Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) is a peak body representing 40 Catholic agencies involved in the provision of social services. In its submission on the Charter’s requirement that a statement of human rights compatibility accompany Bills introduced to Parliament, CSSV states:
“These obligations on members and the Committee [SARC] have significantly increased the attention that Parliament has given to the human rights aspects of new legislation.” (p19)
With regard to the Charter’s impact on public authorities, the CSSV submission quotes from the VHREOC annual report as follows, “many government departments, statutory authorities and local councils have also worked hard to move beyond compliance and integrate human rights principles across all aspects of their organisational practice.” CSSV states:
“These conclusions are also corroborated by numerous interactions with authorities including Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria, and parts of the Department of Human Services.” (p22)
CSSV’s Recommendation (15) is that “an annual statement of compliance with human rights be required of Government bodies.” (p25)
The above list is far from comprehensive, however IsaiahOne is not aware of any social service organisations which have submitted that the Victorian Charter should be repealed or reduced in scope or strength.