Further human rights protection

Contributed by Renuka Thilagaratnam and Dr Helen Watchirs, ACT Human Rights Commission and current to 5 December 2021.

Complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) can investigate complaints against the Commonwealth and its agencies about alleged breaches of human rights recognised in various international instruments, including the ICCPR, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

AHRC can also inquire into complaints of workplace discrimination on the basis of social origin, nationality, religion, political opinion, trade union activity, criminal record and sexual orientation, as recognised in the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958, adopted by the General Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO 111).

In the first instance, AHRC will attempt to resolve these types of complaints by conciliation. If conciliation is unsuccessful or inappropriate and AHRC finds that there has been a breach of human rights or workplace discrimination has occurred, then AHRC can prepare a report of the complaint, including recommendations for action, for the federal Attorney-General. The report may be tabled in Parliament. In the report, AHRC can recommend compensation for any loss or injury a person has experienced, but the recommendations are not enforceable.

Further information on how to make a complaint to the AHRC can be found at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/complaint-information.

Complaints to United Nations committees

Australia has recognised the competence of particular United Nations committees to hear individual complaints about human rights violations. Individuals can complain to the United Nations about alleged breaches of their human rights under the following international treaties:
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  • International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination;
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;
  • Covenant against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
A person must first seek a remedy for their complaint under Australian law. Once all domestic remedies have been exhausted, a complaint may then be made to the relevant United Nations committee.

Further information on how to make a complaint to the United Nations can be found at www.ohchr.org.

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