Reviews of the Charter

Section 44 of the Charter establishes a process for its ongoing review and reform.

The second formal review of the Charter – the eight-year reveiw  is currently underway. Michael Brett Young, CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria until 2014 and previously managing partner at Maurice Blackburn, has been appointed to lead the review. Mr Brett Young is due to report to the Attorney-General on his review by 1 September 2015. Read more about the eight year review

The four-year review of the Charter was undertaken in 2011 by the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee (SARC).

Among other questions, the review was required to examine whether additional human rights should be included in the Charter, including economic, social and cultural rights, women’s rights and the rights of children, as set out in international human rights treaties.

In addition, the four-year review also considered whether the Charter should include the right to Indigenous self-determination, whether regular auditing of public authorities should be mandatory and whether a remedies provision should be added to the Charter.

The review received almost 4000 public submissions: 329 substantive submissions and around 3600 shorter submissions. Most were overwhelmingly positive, with 95 per cent in favour of retaining the Charter.

The review also included five days of public hearings, which provided an opportunity for SARC to explore in depth some of the key issues and controversies raised in the submissions.

The review report, which included 35 recommendations, was tabled in Parliament on 14 September 2011.

In responding to the review report, the government said it is 'strongly committed to the principles of human rights and considers that legislative protection for those rights provides a tangible benefit for the community'.

The government indicated its support for many of the recommendations in the review report, including:

  • to improve parliamentary scrutiny processes
  • to improve internal complaints processes
  • to develop a framework for assessing the costs and benefits of the Charter. It also accepted SARC’s recommendations:
  • to not include additional economic, social and cultural rights, women’s rights or children’s rights in the Charter
  • to not include Indigenous self-determination in the Charter
  • to not provide for an independent cause of action or remedies
  • to not make auditing mandatory.

In addition, the government indicated that it will seek further legal advice on the role of the courts and tribunals in relation to the Charter and the obligations on public authorities.

The Commission welcomed the response of the government, including its decision to retain and strengthen key aspects of the Charter and its willingness ‘to improve protection for human rights and make the operation of the Charter clearer, simpler and more accessible’.

The Charter review report, the government’s response and details of the inquiry process are available from the SARC website.

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