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South Australian Election Question: Do you support a Human Rights Act for SA?

We ask the question so you can make your vote count on 19 March 2022

On International Human Rights Day, Friday 10 December 2021, a group of 36 expert delegates, nominated by Rights Resource Network SA members, met to consider how to design a Human Rights Framework for South Australia. Expert Delegates included representatives from all three South Australian Universities, senior members of the legal profession, senior officers from SACOSS, Shelter SA, Aged Rights, YACSA, LELAN, Civil Liberties Australia and the Working Women’s Centre. Observers from political parties and other peak representative bodies were also in attendance. The key outcome of the Workshop was the agreement among delegates that:

We believe a Human Rights Framework, including a Human Rights Act, would make an immediate positive difference to our community by ensuring that every one of us is treated with dignity and has the opportunity to thrive, uniting us around a set of common values, clearly defining the expectations we have of each other and our State institutions, and providing accessible remedies or resolutions when rights have been ignored or undermined.

In our view, a Human Rights Framework could provide a pathway out of some the intractable debates around substandard service delivery or unfair government decision making, and help prevent some of the rights-impacting problems that have emerged during the COVID-19 contexts – including problems associated with denial of the right to vote, neglect and abuse in aged care and residential facilities, discrimination in schools and workplaces, lack of privacy protections for personal information and many more. Our Framework would reward and build upon existing best practice and would make sure that all South Australians have a change to identify and articulate the common values and rights that unite us.

It would also help our parliamentarians by identifying practical alternatives to rights-abrogating practices or policies, clarifying and consolidating existing statements and charters of rights in South Australian law, and providing efficient legal pathways for constituents to address unfair or inadequate decision-making or treatment. Here's what some of our Expert Delegates said:

It is crucial we have a framework that is focussed on people’s needs cognizant of their rights, promoting the human rights of each person and each group of people marginalised and with less power, to ensure the balance of power is assured in this space. To ensure that democracy is working and that we do not accidently breach people’s human rights through ignorance of systems, conditions leading to disenfranchisement and poverty, and the power structure. To improve the social determinants of health and mental health, and to create a framework which is not afraid to tackle the biggest issues of racism, the widening wealth gap, abuse of minority groups, and growing corruption through government decisions reducing the checks and balances in the system behind closed doors. [Mary Allstrom, Regional Manager - Primary Mental Health Services, Neami National]

SA absolutely needs a human rights framework. I am concerned that without a rights Act and given the absence of parliamentary scrutiny in our system, we may continue to enact legislation that directly impacts those most vulnerable (women, young people, children, migrants etc). Although NGOs (and others) can submit often during the current processes of consultation there is no mechanism that makes the Government accountable to ensure bills prioritise human rights. [Georgia Thain, YACSA]

Upholding all human rights through an ethical infrastructure that is applied consistently, drawing on a single codified set of human rights, is the best way to create a society that is sustainable and liveable, and that enjoys the greatest possible freedom. [Dr Kristine Klugman, President, Civil Liberties Australia]

We’ve identified many more benefits in our Designing a Human Rights Framework for South Australia Report including what a Human Rights Framework might look like, what the key features of a Human Rights Act should be and why it's a good idea in the first place.

Ahead of the 2022 South Australian Election we are asking all elected members and candidates the following questions:

Do you support the adoption of a Human Rights Framework, including a Human Rights Act, for South Australia?
If not, what are the barriers preventing you from supporting this reform?

We have asked for the answers by 28 February 2022 so we can share them with our 350 Network members on facebook and on our website.

In exchange, we have shared a copy of our detailed Designing a Human Rights Framework for South Australia Report as a resource for candidates and constituents to engage with.

Looking forward to keeping you updated on the responses! In the meantime please share our Report with your friends and colleagues!


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