What are Human Rights?
Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to, promoting equality, fairness, dignity and respect for all people. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that “all humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1), and outlines these rights and freedoms. The Australian Government is a signatory to the UDHR, which means that our government has a broad commitment to making sure that people’s rights are not violated.
Human Rights and Mental Illness
People who experience mental illness are vulnerable to having their human rights violated, through stigma and discrimination in society, and by being denied rights and services to which they are entitled.
The Australian Government is signatory to the following international United Nations treaties that seeks to uphold these rights:
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
It is important to note that while Australia is a party to these international treaties, it is Australian law that must enforce the principles contained in these treaties.
Civil and political rights include rights such as the right to be free from discrimination and the right to equality before the law, while economic, social and cultural rights include rights such as the right to education, and the right to adequate health services.
Within Australia, commitments to uphold the rights of people who experience mental illness are acknowledged in:
- The National Mental Health Policy, which states that “people with mental health problems and mental disorders are particularly vulnerable to infringement of their civil and human rights and to discrimination”
- The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- The f orthcoming National Disability Strategy
- The National Human Rights Consultation , which is currently taking place.
In Australia, the rights of people who use health care are contained in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights. Seven key rights are outlined:
- Access – A right to health care
- Safety – A right to receive safe and high quality health care
- Respect – A right to be shown respect, dignity and consideration
- Communication – A right to be informed about services, treatment, options and costs in a clear and open way
- Participation – A right to be included in decisions and choices about care
- Privacy – A right to privacy and confidentiality of personal information
- Comment – A right to comment on care and to have concerns addressed
Protection of Rights in Australia
Australia currently relies on parliamentary processes, Australia’s legal framework and international law to govern the way human rights are protected. However, current debate is alive about better ways to develop human rights policy in Australia, whether it be through greater parliamentary scrutiny of policy, the strengthening of laws or creating a national human rights Act. The Australian Government is currently conducting public consultations about the next steps that should be taken for the protection of human rights, with the Consultation Committee to provide a detailed report to government by July 2009.
- To view the UDHR, visit: http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
- To view information on the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights , visit:http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/our-work/national-perspectives/charter-of-healthcare-rights/
- To view the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities see: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/rights/convtexte.htm
- To view the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm
- To view the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights , visit: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm
- For the full text of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 see: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/dda1992264/
- To visit the Australian Human Rights Commission, visit: http://www.hreoc.gov.au/
- To view the Discrimination Toolkit to assist in making a discrimination complaint, visit: http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/publications/factsheets-and-resources/discrimination-toolkit
- To view the Community Education Kit, a series of factsheets about human rights in Australia, visit:http://www.piac.asn.au/sites/default/files/publications/extras/PIACkit-web_version.pdf
Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC):
Protecting Human Rights in Australia: A Community Education Kit
Information regarding the proposed NSW Charter of Human Rights
Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Principles for the protection of persons with mental illness and the improvement of mental health care
By providing these links and information, NSW CAG is not in any way endorsing the content or further links associated with these sites or documents.