New plain-English legal information about human rights 

The Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (Human Rights Act) aims to recognise, protect and promote the equal rights and worth of all Queenslanders. It recognises that human rights intrinsically belong to each person and brings those rights to the heart of government, judicial and legislative decision making. 

Caxton Legal Centre has recently published a plain-English chapter about Queensland’s human rights laws. This is part of Caxton’s legal information website the Queensland Law Handbook online.  

Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland have been particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses, and their rights have been significantly interfered with throughout colonisation, including by state laws and policies that permitted forced dislocation from land, removal of children and the control of wages later lost or stolen. Interference with the rights of children including through child protection laws, sexual abuse in government institutions and treatment in detention have also led to human rights violations. In line with other Western nations, women have historically faced restrictions of their rights in marriage, property ownership, employment and, in an ongoing sense, in obtaining protection from the law as victims of domestic violence. Other groups, such as Pacific South Sea Islanders who were forced to work in slavery in Queensland’s agricultural industry, people with disabilities who were forcibly segregated into custodial institutions and gay men who were persecuted under historical homosexual criminal laws have experienced unique human rights abuses. 

Interactions between individuals and the state continue to have the potential to erode human rights. Human rights complaints are prevalent in response to the provision of policing, child protection, housing, correctional, aged care, education and health services.  

From the single mother facing eviction from public housing, to the recent migrant who is over-policed for their race, the concerned citizen peacefully protesting, to children held in police watchhouses, the Human Rights Act provides a new avenue of protection. Since its commencement on 1 January 2020, the Human Rights Act has been considered in decisions about child protection, review of negative Blue Card notices, the making of non-publication orders, appeals against sentence, the supervision of released prisoners, applications for bail and parole, requests for judge-only trials and exclusions from school. Environmental decision making is an emerging human rights area, with decisions about land use and environmental laws having the potential to erode rights now and in the future. 

Individuals can find out more about the rights protected under the Human Rights Act and considerations relevant to making a complaint. 

Before contemplating a Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (Human Rights Act) complaint, two important matters should be understood. Firstly, human rights will generally be raised alongside other existing legal avenues of review, appeal or complaint. Secondly, human rights may be limited. Find out more in the page Before bringing a Human Rights Act complaint.   

People can complain to the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) about a breach of their human rights and can add human rights arguments to other legal actions they may bring against a public entity. Read about The Rights of Individuals and the Complaint Process. 

You may also with to take a look at some common interactions between individuals and public entities that may constitute a human rights breach, and the human rights that may be infringed in Queensland on Examples of Human Rights Engaged by Public Entity Actions and Decisions.