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National Human Rights Consultation: A Great Chance to be Heard

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  1. National Human Rights Consultation:A Great Chance to be Heard Lee Ann Basser, La Trobe University Julie Phillips, Disability Discrimination Legal Service Paul Ramcharan, RMIT University Ben Schokman, Human Rights Law Resource Centre

  2. Outline • Human Rights and People with Disability • What is the National Consultation? • How to write a submission • Encouraging and helping others to make submissions • Resources and Contacts – Helping you to write a submission

  3. Human rights and people with disability What human rights are most relevant to people with disability? In what situations or circumstances are human rights relevant? How do public authorities have to comply with human rights? An example…

  4. An example: Narrative – “But my son is toilet trained and he kept coming home from school with bags with soiled laundry. And I said why – he’s toilet trained, why is this – isn’t he just allowed to go to the toilet? I learned that the school locks it’s toilets at recess and lunch time so the pupils can’t access the toilets. And they said – Oh no, it’s not possible to unlock a toilet. Your son has to ask – go up and ask a staff member for the toilet. And I said well he has a social and communication disability – he can’t go up and ask for the toilet, just let him go. That’s what we do at home. And they refused to allow him to use the toilet… after I’d done that – nonetheless my son still kept coming home with soiled laundry. And I said but the toilets are unlocked aren’t they? Yes they’re unlocked, they’re unlocked, that’s OK… And they were making him carry a card around his neck to go up to the teacher, which he couldn’t do. So they – I thought how – after all that we’d been through you’re so determined that he just won’t be allowed to go to the toilet. And that really scared me… people will get even with you by doing something nasty to your child. And that made me quite scared and, um. He was – I felt that my boy was being punished for soiling his pants because he went through a stage where he started to eat his stools. And when I went up to school and said look this is what’s happening, this is – I’m horrified and we’ve been to the psychologist…it didn’t reflect well on them that my boy had been so traumatised that rather than let someone see that was something in his pants, he would try to make it go away by eating it. And that just – I – that just – I’d lie in bed at night and just cry and cry over that. That just made me ill.” Issues? Resolution? Implications?

  5. The National Consultation • An independent Committee has been asked to collect views about human rights from all over Australia • Written submissions • Community meetings • Submissions to the Consultation are due by 15 June 2009 • The Committee will report to Government by 31 August 2009

  6. Three Questions: • Which human rights (and responsibilities) are important? • Are these human rights protected enough now? • How could Australia better protect and talk more about human rights?

  7. A Great Chance to be Heard • Disability organisations know the problems people with disabilities have • Australia does not have many laws to protect human rights • Human rights improve public services and can be used to help people with disability get what they need • The government does not often ask us what we think about human rights – so we should let them know!

  8. What can we do? • You are the experts! • Every submission counts, no matter how large or small • You and your organisation can (or should!): • Write a submission for your organisation • Help others to write a submission • Also an important opportunity for community education

  9. What should be in a federalHuman Rights Act? • Parliament has to think about how new laws impact on human rights • Government departments and services must obey human rights obligations • Courts can interpret laws to be consistent with human rights • ALL rights should be protected – civil, political, economic, social and cultural • Individuals can go to court when their rights have been breached

  10. Myths about a Human Rights Act(things that are not true) • Many people will start suing organisations • Judges will make decisions on human rights • We already have enough rights • There will be too much red tape • Will be used by terrorists • We don’t need it • It won’t do anything

  11. Positive things about a new human rights law If people think more about human rights, we will have an improved public service delivery and outcomes It can help make our laws, policies and practices fairer The language and ideas of human rights can be used to get positive changes and improve the lives of people with disability Protecting basic human rights recognises that all people are equal and valued

  12. Writing your submission • Some questions to think about: • What expertise and experience do we have? • What can our organisation add? • What resources do we have?

  13. Writing your submission Some options: Write a letter supporting the HRLRC’s submission Copy and change someone else’s submission to suit your organisation Write your own submission – can be large or small (even 1 page will do!)

  14. Writing your submission • What should we include? • Write about areas and rights that you know the most about • Tell stories about the experiences of your organisation: • Good news stories – where human rights were helped • ‘Unfair’ outcomes - where better human rights protection might have been useful • Do we have any technical expertise that would help the Committee?

  15. Discussion in small groups • What stories or experiences do you have about human rights: • Success stories where human rights have helped? • Any examples of ‘unfair’ treatment where you think that better human rights protection (eg laws) might have been useful? • What sort of submission might your organisation be able to make?

  16. Writing your submission A narrative approach: Tell the stories from your own experiences in which rights are an issue Relate the key rights and issues involved Describe why the legislation worked or did not work Implications – provide recommendations on how things could change for the better

  17. Encouraging and helping others • Disability organisations are in a good position to help people to tell their personal experiences • Think about whether your organisation could: • Run workshops with clients/people with disabilities • Go to the Consultation Committee’s meetings – or encourage people you know to do so • Give out resources, such as fact sheets, draft submissions, etc

  18. Run workshops or events • Some ideas: • Small workshops or ‘focus groups’ • Look at your organisation’s calendar of events • Set up a stall at community events / festivals • Survey – give surveys to clients/people you know • Choose one person from your organisation who can help others who need information • Think in a different way about how to get people involved!

  19. Consultation Committee’s meetings • In Victoria, the Committee will be visiting: • Dandenong • Melbourne • Mildura • Wodonga • Geelong • Bendigo • Locations and dates available at

  20. Give out Resources • HRLRC’s ‘Submission Kit’ • One-page summary of the Consultation • Fact sheets on people with disability • Fact sheets about different rights • Draft submissions • More detailed resources • HRLRC’s “Engaging in the Debate” publication • Australian Human Rights Commission’s toolkit

  21. Discussion in small groups What sort of ideas are you starting to develop about how your organisation could assist other organisations and individuals to make submissions?

  22. Further Resources • National Human Rights Consultation • Human Rights Law Resource Centre: • Get Up: • Amnesty: • Australian Human Rights Group:

  23. Contacts • Human Rights Law Resource Centre • Ben Schokman ph: (03) 8636 • Disability Discrimination Legal Service • Julie Phillips ph: (03) 9654