Full range of human rights need to be enacted by ACT Government

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has welcomed the ACT Government’s commitment to introduce a right to a healthy environment in the Human Rights Act 2004 but has called on the ACT Government to enact all Economic, Social and Cultural Rights including a right to housing.

Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne MLA today committed to enacting a right to a healthy environment during this term of parliament following calls by the community to highlight ‘the importance of protecting the environment and making sure it is considered in decision making’.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “ACTCOSS supports the introduction of a right to a health environment to the ACT’s human rights protections.

“We also welcome the inclusion of key issues raised by ACTCOSS and other stakeholders in the ACT Government’s ‘Your Say’ report tabled today in the Legislative Assembly.”

Issues raised by ACTCOSS and others highlighted in the listening report include:

  • Importance of consulting with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in decision-making processes and investing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led projects and initiatives
  • Improved access to mechanisms to exercise human rights; and
  • Consideration of the extension of the Human Rights Act to cover other ESC rights including the right to health and the right to housing.

Dr Campbell said: “ACTCOSS also welcomed the Your Say report’s acknowledgement that environmental impacts are felt more intensely by vulnerable groups such as people on low incomes, people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and children.

“However, protections should be included to ensure that the right to a healthy environment cannot be relied upon for the purpose of enforcing controls or restrictions that lead to unjust impacts for people on low incomes or on the activities and rights of First Nations people,” Dr Campbell said.

Dr Campbell continued: “While we welcome the proposal to include a right to a healthy environment in the ACT Human Rights Act 2004, ACTCOSS believes the Act should be amended to explicitly include all economic, social and cultural rights.

“This includes the right to housing, physical and mental health, and culture,” said Dr Campbell.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that ‘all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated’.

“In other words, one right cannot be fully enforced without enacting all rights. How can you ensure the right to a healthy environment if you don’t have the right to adequate housing?” said Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS looks forward to working with the ACT Government and community to deliver this important piece of legislation.

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