Media release: Keeping the Charter the right decision
14 March 2012
Today's decision by the Victorian Government to keep Victoria's Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is a win for Victorians, the Public Interest Law Clearing House Vic (PILCH) said today.
"As a service that provides free legal services to some of the state's most disadvantaged people, we have seen first-hand that the Charter has led to better quality public services and fairer outcomes for our clients," said PILCH Executive Director, Fiona McLeay. "We are pleased the Government has shown its commitment to giving Victorians a fair go."
Senior Lawyer of the PILCH Homeless Persons' Legal Clinic, Lucy Adams, also welcomed the decision. "We have used the Charter to prevent 42 people including 21 children from being evicted into homelessness. In the absence of the Charter, these people would have been put at greater risk of joining the 20,500 Victorians who are homeless each night," she said.
The Government's decision is consistent with the evidence presented to government as part of the review. Almost 4,000 submissions were made by individuals and organisations to the parliamentary committee - 95 per cent of these supported keeping or strengthening the Charter.
"The Government has taken community feedback on board and has come to the right decision," Ms McLeay said. "Our experience shows that the Charter has led to better practices and policies within public bodies in Victoria. It has provided a clear framework for public servants making difficult decisions in the face of limited resources.
The Government's response recognises that there is an "ongoing place for courts in protecting rights" under the Charter and the Government has committed to seeking further advice on how courts and tribunals can best fulfil this role. "The role of courts and tribunals in assessing human rights compliance is essential. In the HPLC's work we have seen that enforceable rights encourage negotiation and promote accountability," Ms Adams said.
"The Charter delivers real outcomes and we are pleased it will continue to protect the rights of everyone in Victoria," Ms McLeay said.
Fiona McLeay, PILCH Executive Director, 0425 714 545
Lucy Adams, PILCH HPLC Senior Lawyer, 0409 664 883