Page 270 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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If any of my colleagues here in the Assembly wish to improve their health and wellbeing through increased contact with nature, I ask them to please get in touch. I can connect them with a facilitated nature-based activity led by one of Canberra’s amazing expert nature guides. Then there are all of our incredible environmental volunteer groups. The Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment has recently released a report on environmental volunteering in the ACT. This showcases the volunteer environment work that is conducted by our amazing volunteers throughout Canberra and acts as a resource for the ACT community to learn more about volunteering and how to get involved.

I thank Ms Clay for this motion, and I really look forward to collaborating with the Minister for Human Rights, Minister Cheyne, as we walk this journey and modernise our legal and policy settings to ensure that all Canberrans live in environments that give them a fair chance of living the healthiest, happiest lives that are possible.

MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (3.39): I support Ms Clay’s motion to introduce a right to a healthy environment here in the ACT. As spokesperson for multicultural affairs, I am going to speak briefly about how this right connects to the homelands of some of Canberra’s most established and beloved migrant communities.

There are already 150 countries with similar provisions in their national laws recognising the right to a healthy environment. I want to take a moment to celebrate and pay homage to some of those countries that we can now turn to when looking for examples of how to enshrine and protect this right. Nations that have constitutionally protected environmental rights include the Philippines, Chile, Finland, India and Brazil. The Philippines was the first country to enshrine the right to a healthy environment, with article II, section 16, of the 1987 Philippines Constitution claiming:

The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

Because this right is protected, many environmental harms are recognised in the eyes of the law, meaning that robust and enforceable mechanisms for restitution and repair are possible. Soon after the right to a healthy environment was enshrined in the Philippines Constitution, a group of activist lawyers took the Philippines Department of Natural Resources and Environment to court on behalf of their children. The group successfully claimed that the forestry licences granted by the department violated the right to a balanced and healthful ecology. The Supreme Court decided that the constitutional right to a sound environment was enforceable and granted legal standing to the children in the present generation to represent both their own interests and those of future generations.

This case demonstrates the power and the potential of a right to a healthy environment. No mere symbol, it offers a focus and a goal for governments and environmental advocates alike. Perhaps most importantly, it represents a rare inclusion of the consideration of the rights of young people in the legal system and in society more broadly, where they are often excluded and ignored. So to the residents of Canberra who hail from the Philippines, Chile, Finland, India, Brazil or any of those other 150

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