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Australians need human rights education

Australians need human rights education

Building community understanding and respect for human rights through the proposed Human Rights Framework will be a key priority of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) over the next…

Building community understanding and respect for human rights through the proposed Human Rights Framework will be a key priority of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) over the next three years.

The president of the AHRC, Catherine Branson QC, told Lawyers Weekly that under the Commission's 2010 - 2012 Workplan, increasing awareness and understanding of human rights within the general community is an essential item on the agenda.

"We want to build a greater understanding about what human rights are and how they apply to everyday life in Australia. The report of the National Consultation on human rights ... found that there wasn't a high level of understanding about human rights in Australia, and that's also our experience," she said.

"[We want to] help people understand why Australia is a party to international conventions and what they mean, particularly within Australia, how they're relevant to how we all live our lives, and that it's not simply about the rights that we have, but our very important responsibility to respect the rights of everybody else in our community."

Branson said that while the best way to achieve this is through the Human Rights Framework, exactly how it will be achieved is yet to be determined.

"We have received some additional funding to enable us to do that work, and we're still thinking through the details of precisely how we will be engaging with the community about human rights ... I am hoping we'll be able to make some public statements about that fairly soon," she said.

The Commission's Workplan also outlines an intention to continue to review Australian laws and make submissions on areas of concern, especially in relation to parliamentary enquiries, to monitor and report on the situation in Australia's detention centres, and to tackle violence, harassment and bullying.

In addition to this, the AHRC is in the process of developing a comprehensive framework which will effectively monitor the impact of the AHRC's work.

"It's very difficult to measure [our success]. We, and other people who work in the area of social justice, are always looking at improved ways to evaluate what we are doing and monitoring our impact," she said.

"Australia as a nation doesn't have a well-developed set of social justice indicators, although there are people doing important work in this area. I am hoping that we will have those indicators at some time in the foreseeable future."

Claire Chaffey

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