A human rights act targeted at addressing the needs of disadvantaged groups in society has been advocated by both the New South Bar Association and the Public Interest Law Clearing House (PILCH) in the latest batch of submissions to the National Consultation on Human Rights.
The NSW Bar Association submission described a statutory charter or bill of rights as "the most appropriate option" for protection of human rights in Australia, and recommended the inclusion of explicit protections for the rights of indigenous people.
As well as a charter of rights, the NSW Bar recommended that individuals be entitled to seek damages, following the example of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the United Kingdom Human Rights Act 1988.
PILCH has also made a number of submissions to the consultation, informed by its pro bono legal work advising disadvantaged clients.
PILCH Acting Executive Director Mat Tinkler said that current laws fail to adequately protect disadvantaged groups in society, such as the homeless, the elderly, asylum-seekers, people with disabilities and racial and religious minorities.
"Our submissions to the consultation have been informed by the experiences of these people, and their plights clearly demonstrate that Australia needs a human rights act that enshrines fundamental civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights," Tinkler said.
"Parliamentary accountability means little to someone who is about to be evicted into homelessness - a human rights act will improve the practices of government and promote a "fair go" for all Australians."