Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 7 May 2015) . . Page.. 1494 ..

I will turn briefly to the changes in relation to education. The bill extends the binding obligations on public authorities in part 5A of the Human Rights Act to the right of education. This means that all ACT public authorities will have to act and make decisions consistent with the right to education. The scope of these rights is appropriately limited in section 27A(3) to two immediately realisable aspects—that is, that everyone is entitled to enjoy these rights without discrimination and that parents and guardians are entitled to choose schooling for their children that conforms to their religious and moral convictions as long as the school meets the minimum education standards required under law. It is certainly the government’s view that the ACT currently meets the international law requirements in relation to the right to education under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

I now turn to the substantive part of the debate this morning, which is the proposal to insert a new section 27(2) into the act to introduce distinct and unique cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the acknowledgement of the importance of their relationships to country. The wording of this amendment draws on the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee about the cultural rights of minorities generally, which are sourced from article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. They also reflect the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—primarily articles 25 and 31. The wording is very similar to the wording of Aboriginal cultural rights as expressed in section 19 of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities.

It is worth highlighting that a number of facets of the UN declaration and article 31 have not been adopted, as these are covered by relevant commonwealth law, including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994, the Copyright Act 1968, the Designs Act 2003, and the Trade Marks Act 1995.

The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that culture manifests itself in many forms, including a particular way of life associated with the use of land resources, especially in the case of indigenous peoples. That right may include such traditional activities as fishing or hunting and the right to live in reserves protected by law. The enjoyment of those rights may require positive legal measures of protection and measures to ensure the effective participation of members on minority communities in decisions which affect them.

It needs to be acknowledged that links to land, language, country and kinship are a crucial part of the identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are a crucial part of the ACT’s cultural identity, and they must be recognised and valued. I note the comments made by some members of the opposition in relation to their concerns about whether these new rights to be integrated into the Human Rights Act will create unintended consequences. I note in particular the comments of Mr Wall and Mr Hanson, who both asked whether the rights will have material and economic relationships with land recognised and apply to interests in land now lawfully held by third parties. This is the same question that was asked by the scrutiny of bills committee.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . . Video