The Human Rights Act 2004 commenced operation on 1 July 2004. Since then, public officials have been required to interpret agency-related legislation consistently with human rights unless Territory law clearly authorises otherwise.
Amendments to this Act came into force on 1 January 2009 and provided individuals with the right of action where human rights have been breached by a government agency.
The Human Rights Amendment Act 2012 introduced a right to education commencing on 1 January 2013.
Respect, Equity and Diversity
In term one of 2014, forty-seven new Respect, Equity and Diversity Contact Offices (REDCOs) were appointed in the Directorate, most of whom attended contact officer training held in March conducted by CIT Solutions. This brought the total number of REDCOs within schools and branches to 95. REDCOs promote respect, equity and diversity in the workplace and offer support, guidance and information to staff. REDCOs also participated in ongoing quarterly network meetings where development opportunities were provided to advance their skills and knowledge in the role and to collaboratively contribute to positive work cultures.
The Directorate's Respect, Equity and Diversity Consultative Committee (REDCC) meets quarterly to provide strategic advice on respect, equity and diversity issues as well as to share current and emerging issues, ideas and examples of good practice.
A number of initiatives were implemented to support human rights education for staff.
- Respectful Workplaces training: ongoing delivery of training for employees was a key part of the Directorate's commitment to workplace health and safety and implementation of the ACT Public Service RED Framework.
- Employee Complaints and Disputes Resolution Toolkit: the toolkit, which was published on the Directorate's website in 2012, has been used extensively to assist in resolving workplace issues.
- Peer Conflict Management Coaching: this coaching continued to support employees to reach early resolution of conflict and disputes.
Inquiries during the Current Reporting Period
Six inquiries were received from the ACT Human Rights Commission, one of which remains under consideration. Of the remaining five matters, two were resolved to the Commission's satisfaction, two were closed by the Commission on the basis that conciliation was unlikely to succeed and one was finalised by the Commission with recommendations, which the Directorate accepted.
Education and Training
The Directorate does not keep data centrally on staff attending training sessions involving human rights principles. Directorate staff are able to access information on the ACT Human Rights Commission website at http://www.hrc.act.gov.au/.
Directorate policies and procedures refer to the Human Rights Act 2004 where this is relevant. These include:
- Countering bullying, harassment and violence in ACT Public Schools;
- Complaints Policy;
- Countering Sexual Harassment in ACT Public Schools; and
- Suspension, exclusion or transfer of students in ACT Public Schools.
Policies are available at http://www.det.act.gov.au/publications_and_policies/policy_a-z.
Liaison on Human Rights Issues
The Directorate consulted with the ACT Human Rights Commission, where relevant, in the preparation of cabinet submissions, including government submissions to the Legislative Assembly and in the development of new and amended legislation.
The Directorate did not prepare any Cabinet documentation for new legislation in the reporting period.
The ACT Human Rights Commission was an important external stakeholder and was consulted where policies and procedures that may have human rights implications were being reviewed or developed.
For further information contact:
Governance and Assurance
(02) 6205 9329
You R U Day - Promoting Respect for Diversity
Promoting and providing training opportunities for respect, equity and diversity in public schools was a priority for the Directorate in the 2014 Action Plan. A number of public schools developed activities to promote respect for diversity during the reporting period. You R U Day was one such event to raise awareness about individuality among high school students in the South/Weston Schools Network.
The event was organised by the Student Representative Councils (SRCs) of Alfred Deakin, Melrose and Mount Stromlo High Schools and Telopea Park School. A total of 400 students, 100 from each school, participated in the event held at Telopea Park School Oval on Friday, 20 September 2013.
As part of fun-filled learning activities, students had an opportunity to share their ideas on promoting acceptance of individual differences. Students wrote positive messages on the affirmation wall, displayed their artwork, and took part in cross-school races and events. There was a barbeque lunch for students to enjoy with their peers. The event was a huge success, leading to the development of a documentary to enhance understanding of individuality among primary school students. In recognition of their work, the SRCs won the Young Canberran of the Year 2013 - Group Award.