Human Rights Day is 10 December 2023. There’s a special anniversary to commemorate this year as 2023 is the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In Victoria we also have a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities enshrined in law by the Victorian Parliament in 2006. The Charter gives protection to 20 fundamental human rights of Victorians. They include rights such as the right to freedom of movement, the right to freedom of expression, the right to privacy and reputation, the right to protection of families and children and the right to liberty and security of person.
We, like other integrity bodies (including IBAC and the Victorian Ombudsman), can exercise powers that limit the human rights of Victorians. These are powers of a coercive nature to do things such as require a person to attend and be asked questions, require a person to produce documents or other things or require a person not to tell others things about an investigation. Integrity bodies are ‘public authorities’ under the Charter and, as such, are required by law to act compatibly with human rights and to give them proper consideration when making decisions, including decisions about the exercise of a coercive power.
Under the Charter, a human right may only be subject to such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, and taking into account relevant factors. The Victorian Inspectorate gives careful consideration to this when deciding whether the exercise of a coercive power by it is justified. When it is within our jurisdiction to do so, we also view the exercise of a coercive power, by any integrity body that we oversee, through a human rights lens. We are greatly assisted in doing that by the notifications of their exercise of coercive powers that these bodies are required by law to give us.
On 10 December we can celebrate this important milestone in the history of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and take comfort from the fact that the protection of our fundamental human rights is enhanced by the Victorian Charter. As Victorians, we can also feel proud that Victoria was the first Australian State to enact such a human rights law.
The Victorian Inspectorate will continue to play its part in giving practical effect to the Charter in its daily operations, including when required to consider the exercise of coercive powers by other integrity bodies. For more information about how we monitor and report on coercive power notifications, see our most recent annual report.
Happy Human Rights Day!