Page 3017 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 23 August 2005

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promoting community education, which may be more effective in the long term than addressing issues within individual services or service systems. This is not precluded in the act, but it is not explicitly stated. It is not enough to fix a tyre if the motor does not work.

The broad function of promoting the human rights and welfare of people living in the ACT is a fundamental function for the human rights commission, and this should be reflected in the legislation. Furthermore, this should apply to all citizens, not limited to people receiving services from government and non-government agencies. Specific commissioners have responsibilities in relation to specific groups but, as an entity, the community will see the commission as an agency that exists to promote everyone’s rights.

We have proposed three functions through which the commission can promote the rights and welfare of ACT citizens. The first is through promoting the provision of community education, information and advice in relation to human rights. The commission will no doubt, under the existing bill, provide some community education, information and advice directly to citizens, but it can also undertake promotion of this kind by working collaboratively with other agencies such as schools, community groups and service providers. This amendment does not introduce a new role for the commission—I am sure that we all expect that the commission will do this—but it does raise the emphasis on such activity in the act.

The second function is identifying and examining issues that affect the human rights and welfare of vulnerable groups in the community. This is a more proactive approach to addressing systemic issues affecting the human rights of vulnerable groups that complements the role of the commission in reacting to complaints. Complaints are a blunt instrument for identifying the issues that affect human rights, because a relatively small number of people make complaints, and often those most vulnerable are those who are least likely to complain, at least to official bodies.

Indeed, the commission may identify that there is an absence of complaints from particular groups such as people with a disability who do not communicate verbally, or older people from non-English speaking backgrounds, and choose to develop strategies to reach out to these groups to examine the issues that affect their human rights and to raise their awareness of the complaint mechanisms. I cannot imagine that any of us would not expect the commission to undertake work of this nature, but it is not explicitly described in the bill without this amendment.

The third function is making recommendations to government and non-government agencies on legislation, policies, practices and services that affect vulnerable groups in the community. This amendment gives the commission a platform to make recommendations to government and non-government agencies to improve the human rights protection of vulnerable groups beyond recommendations contained in a report arising from an investigation into a complaint.

I will be moving, in related amendments, to expand the functions of the disability and community services commissioner, the health services commissioner and the children and young people commissioner. Briefly, these amendments are similar and include promoting the provision of education, information and advice to specific groups, raising

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