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Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights

Rights Rights and Freedoms
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On 14 December 2018, the Australian Human Rights Commission announced a major project: ‘Free and Equal: An Australian conversation on human rights’ (the National Conversation).

Throughout this year, we will be talking with people nationally to identify what makes an effective system of human rights protection for 21st century Australia?

The purpose of the National Conversation is to:

  • Promote awareness of the importance of human rights to 21st century Australia
  • Identify current limitations and barriers to better human rights protections
  • Identify what key principles should underpin the reform of human rights in Australia
  • Build agreement across the Parliament, government and the community about what we can do collectively to better promote, protect and fulfil human rights

More technical information about the purpose of the conversation can be found in the 

What will the National Conversation look like?

To explore what an effective human rights framework looks like, the Commission will:

  • open the conversation to the public, inviting submissions on conversation starters
  • undertake consultations nationally through 2019
  • convene technical workshops on areas relevant to the project and invite submissions to technical papers on these areas

A finalised roadmap for national human rights reform will be released in mid-2020.

A full timeline for the national conversation can be found below.


The ‘Free and Equal’ Conference on Human Rights

The Free and Equal conference is the centrepiece of the national conversation and once-in-a-decade event. It will take stock of themes emerging from Australian voices and allow us to hear from human rights experts, industry and community leaders on how we can advance human rights into the 21st Century.

The conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency Sydney on Tuesday 8 October 2019

You can find out more about the Conference and purchase tickets here.

Discussion Papers

To start this national conversation, we have written a number of Papers that explore different parts of our system of human rights protections. One of these papers (the Issues Paper) is more general and invites responses on our human rights system as a whole. The others are more technical and lay out specific options for reform of our existing legislative and policy frameworks. These papers are outlined in more detail below You can make a submission to the Commission on any of these papers and the questions included within them using the submissions form here. The deadline for receiving submissions on all papers is 5pm on 8 November 2019.

Issues Paper

The Issues Paper provides context of where we are at with human rights in Australia. It outlines what kinds of things the government should be doing to respect, protect and fulfil human rights for all Australians. Andit asks questions about what human rights matter to you, how human rights should be protected and what the best Australian human rights framework could look like. 

You can read the Issues Paper here.

Technical Discussion Papers

As part of the National Conversation we are also releasing a series of three technical discussion papers that explore different parts of our national human rights framework and present options for reform. 

Discussion paper: Priorities for federal discrimination law reform

A part of the national conversation is to look at Australia’s current human rights framework. One critical part of this framework is our discrimination laws, protecting you from unlawful discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, and other statuses.

We have prepared a Discussion Paper: Priorities for federal discrimination law reform discussing the lay of the land, where there is need for improvement within these laws, and what that might look like.

Discussion paper: A model for positive human rights reform in Australia

In the National Conversation, we also want to explore how we could increase the positive framing of human rights in Australia through different legislative and policy options. 

We have prepared another Discussion paper on a model for positive human rights reform in Australia. This paper outlines what our current system of human rights protections looks like, how it is and isn’t effective in ensuring that government respects, protects and fulfils our human rights, why reforming the current system is critical, and different options for reform.


How can you be involved?

We want to hear your vision for the future. We want to hear your thoughts on the questions outlined in any of the papers above. Everyone is invited to take part.

You can make a written submission to the Commission based on the questions included in any or all of the papers here.

The deadline for receiving submissions is 5pm on 8 November 2019.


Please join us in this conversation about the Australia you want to live in.

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