The ACT Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ACT ESCR) research project, subtitled ‘Protecting Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the ACT: models, methods and impact’, assessed whether the ACT Human Rights Act 2004 should be amended to include economic, social and cultural rights. It was supported by an ARC Linkage Grant.

The project combined a comprehensive literature review, comparative legal analysis, and consultations with international and national legal experts and ACT stakeholders through a series of workshops and roundtables to consider whether the ACT should include economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights in the ACT Human Rights Act (HRA).

Project background and framework

The ACT ESCR research project was undertaken at the request of the ACT Government and followed from the government’s 12-month review of the Human Rights Act, which recommended that the issue of economic, social and cultural rights be revisited as part of the five-year review of the legislation. At the time, the project represented the first comprehensive Australian study of the potential impact of the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in a legislative bill of rights.

The framework objectives of the project included:

  • assessing the adequacy of the protection of economic, social and cultural rights in the ACT
  • examining the possible mechanisms for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, and the appropriateness of those mechanisms in the ACT
  • analysing the potential impact of the enforcement of economic, social and cultural rights and the effect on policy-making, service delivery and decision-making processes in the ACT.

Community consultation, July – August, 2011

On 9 December 2010 the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, introduced the ACT ESCR Project’s final report into the Legislative Assembly, noting that

the question of whether to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into ACT law is a complex one that raises many issues for all parts of our community, not just government. These questions will need to be considered in detail by the government, in consultation with the community.”

A background paper for consultation was provided.

ACT government response

The ACT government has prepared a response to the independent research report, Australian Capital Territory Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project Report. In its response the government addresses the Report’s 15 recommendations, suggest that the Human Rights Act 2004 (HRA) be amended to include the rights to education, housing, health, work and to take part in cultural life.

On 29 March 2012, the ACT government tabled the Human Rights Amendment Bill 2012 that will include the right to education in the Human Rights Act. Further details can be found in the [transcript of the relevant debate of the ACT Legislative Assembly] (/sites/default/files/uploads/2015-05/Leg.assembly_ACT.pdf) (PDF 290KB) and the explanatory statement presented by the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell MLA, in relation to the Human Rights Amendment Bill 2012.

The ACT Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the HRA on 23 August 2012 to insert a right to education. See the history of the amendments.

You can consult the debate on the amendments the supplementary Explanatory Statement.

Media

The controversy surrounding the bill is discussed by Lisa Cox in The Canberra Times and Anna Morozow on ABC NewsMedia Release Right to education enshrined in human rights law.

Featured publications and resources

Final report

The project commenced in May 2009 and concluded in September 2010 with a final report – ACT Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Research Project – Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP0989167 – Report (PDF 3.22MB) submitted to the ACT Government.

The final report was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly by the Attorney-General, Mr Simon Corbell, along with a letter of advice (PDF 9.43MB) from the ACT Government Solicitor. The Attorney-General’s statement at the ACT Legislative Assembly is available on the ANU ACT Human Rights Act Portal.

Publications and other academic outputs