Human Rights Lecture - Australian Exceptionalism: International Human Rights and Australian Law

Australia is unique among comparable legal systems in that it has very few constitutional or legislative protections for most human rights, and has no bill of rights or rights charter. Rather, Australia has developed an ad-hoc approach to the protection of human rights through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, administrative law, common law and through normative culture. This fragmented approach to human rights has produced a significant gap in legal protections placing particular groups, such as asylum seekers, at risk.

During the 2013 election the Coalition Government outlined its intention of placing greater emphasis on fundamental freedoms, and restore what it sees as an imbalance of human rights in Australia. One way the Government hopes to achieve this is by amending the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. The ensuing ‘freedoms debate’ has shone a spotlight on how human rights are protected in Australia, revealing that there are very few protections for the freedoms most Australians take for granted.

Since its inception in 2002 at the behest of then Chancellor, Ms Fay Marles, the Human Rights Lecture has become a feature of the University of Melbourne calendar. Previous Human Rights Lecture attendees include Radhika Coomaraswamy (UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict), the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby AC CMG (Member of the High Court of Australia) and the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser AC CH (former Prime Minister of Australia).

This lecture will be filmed, and can be viewed here shortly after the event.