With four Canberra schools having now been discovered to have high levels of lead contamination since the July school holidays, the ACT Greens have today committed to enshrining the “right to a healthy environment” into the ACT’s Human Rights Act.
ACT Labor, the Canberra Liberals and the ACT Greens have committed $15 million to accelerate the removal of hazardous materials from public schools.
However, the ACT Greens have gone further today with a commitment to improve the legal right of Canberrans to enjoy a clean, healthy environment – in schools and across our community.
“We need to ensure that our students, our teachers, and everyone in our Canberra community can enjoy access to a healthy, clean and safe environment,” ACT Greens Environment Spokesperson Jo Clay said today.
“Children as well as teaching staff in schools and early childhood education centres have the right to work and play without damaging hazardous and toxic materials and chemicals in their immediate environments.
“That’s why the Greens will enshrine the ‘right to a healthy environment’ into our Human Rights Act – to protect both Canberrans and our natural environment from unnecessary harm.
“Like the current right to education, an overarching legal right to a healthy environment simply places a responsibility on government services to consider these rights at every decision point.
“This would help prevent this type of contamination in the first place, require prioritised rectification, and potentially offer legal remedies to people affected.
“In practice it also would require the ACT Government to give the environment special consideration in all decision making, particularly in relation to potential impacts on human health. It would also require better environmental standards, prevent rollback of environmental standards, and allow citizens to take legal action against potential breaches.”
The Greens also recently called for reports on lead contamination in schools to be made publicly available and accessible, so that parents and the wider community can have confidence that this situation is being rectified appropriately.