The Commission has recommended it be given a range of functions to enhance the development of a human rights culture in Victoria. These include an alternative dispute resolution service and as well as an audit function to address compliance issues and breaches of human rights.
The proposed new dispute resolution function would mean that people can bring their complaint directly to the Commission for conciliation or go directly to VCAT as currently occurs under the Equal Opportunity Act and Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.
This would tap into the Commission’s expertise in conciliation while providing a timely, accessible and cost effective service for complainants who allege human rights breaches.
Commissioner Kate Jenkins said: “Being able to bring a complaint directly to the Commission with our trained conciliators and enquiry line staff allows us to resolve any human rights breaches in a confidential, timely, and informal manner. The Commission’s model for resolving disputes has proven to be flexible and responsive,” Ms Jenkins said.
The Commission is also recommending that compensation should be made available to individuals, where appropriate, if a public authority has breached their rights.
The recommendations will also promote greater cooperation between VEOHRC and the Victorian Ombusdman to deliver the most appropriate regulatory response to a human rights breach.
A new audit function allowing the Commission to initiate a review of public authorities is also recommended along with a range of other measures including investing in human rights education across the government and community sector and creating a new research function to enable the Commission to more proactively identify areas of systemic discrimination.
“Our submission has been geared not only toward simplifying some of the more unwieldy aspects of the Charter but also to provide greater incentives for pubic authorities to comply with the Charter.
“If this review enables us to encourage a culture of valuing human rights and identify the problem areas through education and research thenwe have achieved our aim in this latest review,” Ms Jenkins said.
As a new and developing law, the Charter required a review after four years of operation and again after eight years. The reviews provide an important opportunity to strengthen and build understanding on the role the Charter can play to improve human rights outcomes for all Victorians. The eight year review of the Charter is being conducted by independent reviewer Michael Brett Young who was CEO of the Law Institute of Victoria until 2014. He is due to report to the Attorney General on his review by 1 September 2015.