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Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull's announcement of a royal commission into the abuse of children in Northern Territory jails gives an insight into his instincts on human rights. Turnbull said he was "deeply shocked" and "appalled" by the footage aired by Four Corners and acted swiftly in calling the inquiry. It was decisive action that shows the potential Turnbull has to lead on human rights more broadly.

The reality is, from marriage equality to refugee policy, Turnbull has a golden opportunity to make progress, despite divisions in his own party and a complex Senate to navigate. In fact, it's precisely these challenges that create opportunities for more constructive, practical outcomes. Where his predecessor Tony Abbott took a polarising approach, Turnbull can build consensus.

The Northern Territory has the highest rate of youth detention in Australia. It locks children up at almost five times the national average. Monday night’s Four Corners episode also revealed that cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment is endemic in its principal youth detention facility.

Australia’s abusive offshore detention centres are sustained by a vast network of global banks and investment funds that are failing to meet their responsibility to respect human rights. Today the campaign against the Australian government’s offshore detention centres (ODCs) moved further into the corporate sphere, exposing the links between Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial and its financial backers, and gross human rights abuses in the ODCs.


  • Positive reforms of Victoria’s Human Rights Charter announced but more needed

    22 July 2016

    The Victorian Government today announced support in full or in part for 45 of the 52 recommendations made through the independent Human Rights Charter Review. But the Government deferred a decision on key recommendations that would make it easier to enforce rights.

    The Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser welcomed the commitment to better protect Victorians human rights but urged action on the deferred reforms.

  • Aboriginal organisations, doctors and lawyers say NT’s failed alcohol laws should be scrapped

    17 July 2016

    On the eve of a case in the Northern Territory Supreme Court challenging the Alcohol Protection Order regime, Aboriginal organisations, doctors and lawyers have united in calling on the Northern Territory Government to rethink harmful alcohol laws that negatively impact Aboriginal people, and to implement evidence-based policies that will have real impact.

    An Alcohol Protection Order (APO) prevents a person from possessing or consuming alcohol, or going to licensed premises – which includes a number of supermarkets, restaurants, sporting venues such as TIO Stadium and airport facilities. Police can stop, search and arrest people subject to an APO. Breaching an APO is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.

  • Stronger recognition for same-sex couples in Victoria

    8 July 2016

    With the future of marriage equality in Australia uncertain, same-sex couples in Victoria will now benefit from a raft of changes that improve recognition of their relationships.

    Rights groups welcome the changes, which mean couples married overseas or with only one partner resident in Victoria will now be recognised in Victoria. Previously both partners were required to reside in the state for 12 months. Death certificates will now also acknowledge de facto relationships and same sex overseas marriages and civil unions.

  • Queenslanders deserve a Human Rights Act with real teeth

    1 July 2016

    Yesterday Queensland’s Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee released a report recommending that Queensland introduce a Human Rights Act. However, the Committee’s proposal for how that Act would operate falls well short of what’s required for adequate human rights protection for Queenslanders.

    The Human Rights Law Centre’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, welcomed the recommendation, but warned that the government must ensure that a Queensland Human Rights Act delivers real outcomes for individuals.

  • Queensland parliament should seize the opportunity to modernise abortion laws

    1 July 2016

    Queensland must reform its outdated abortion laws, the Human Rights Law Centre said in a submission to the Queensland Parliament’s inquiry into abortion law reform. The HRLC called on the Queensland government to decriminalise abortion and ensure women can safely access abortion services.

    The HRLC’s Director of Advocacy and Research, Emily Howie, said it is unacceptable that abortion remains a criminal offence in Queensland under provisions of the Criminal Code enacted in 1899.

    “Queensland must seize this important opportunity to bring its abortion laws into the 21st century. Laws criminalising abortion are hopelessly out of step with community values and deny women their basic rights to non-discrimination, health and privacy,” said Ms Howie.

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