The Objectives of Human Rights & Responsibilities Australia

Human Rights & Responsibilities Australia is established for the public charitable object of promoting the prevention or control of behaviour that is harmful or abusive to human beings by:

  1. providing human rights education which is aligned with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular, education about:

    • what fundamental human rights are;
    • how violations of fundamental human rights create abuse; and
    • how taking responsibility for fundamental human rights prevents abuse; and

  2. increasing the understanding of all Australians of, and adherence by all Australians to, fundamental human rights.


Behaviour that is Harmful or Abusive to Human Beings

The behaviour that Human Rights & Responsibilities Australia wants to prevent or control are violations of human rights for these violations are harmful or abusive to human beings that are invariably achieved by or result in, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse is a violation of human rights.

Women are particularly prone to all 3 forms of abuse - physical, sexual and emotional.

On this point, the words that Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Susan Halliday, spoke on 25 November 2000 are still true today;

"It is of grave concern that we still live in a society where physical, sexual and emotional acts of violence against women are prevalent on our streets, in the workplace and at home. Every woman has the right to live a life free of violence. This is a fundamental human rights issue."

We also agree with what Dr Ann-Claire Larsen, Justice Coordinator, School of Law and Justice, Edith Cowen University said in her paper entitled, "Mobilising international human rights norms to reduce violence against Australian indigenous women: a way ahead",

"The international community recognises violence against women as the most pervasive human rights violation: all cultures are affected; none provide adequate protection or redress for victims. Moreover, the world’s indigenous peoples are deemed especially vulnerable to violence.

"In Australia’s indigenous communities, levels of violence constitute a ‘national crisis’; indeed, reports of new sinister forms of violence — child and group rape — are emerging, despite the comprehensive range of programs developed to address this issue. This paper argues that international human rights law is essential but limited as a strategy for managing indigenous family violence.

"But, international human rights norms or ‘soft law’ could be better utilised as a ‘mobilising force’ to strengthen local indigenous institutions: cultural, social and economic. As just institutions promote an ethic of non-violence, so too will the ‘national crisis’ diminish."

And further, "Individuals and communities need to work towards promoting behaviour that fosters self-disciplined individuals who seek to live according to an ethics of non-violence and to foster non-violence in others."


Human Rights and Indigenous Communities

We also agree with the following quote from a speech entitled "Addressing family violence and child sexual assault in indigenous communities – A human rights perspective", that was given by Mr Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Acting Race Discrimination Commissioner, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, at the Aboriginal Child Sexual Assault Forum at NSW Parliament House on the 5th of December 2006

"So let me now discuss the issues in Australia. I must begin by stating upfront and unequivocally that family violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities is abhorrent and has no place in Aboriginal society.

"Family violence and abuse is a scourge that is causing untold damage and trauma among Indigenous communities. Indigenous men, women and children are entitled to live their lives in safety and full human dignity. This means without fear of family violence or abuse. This is their cultural, and their human right.

"Let me also state upfront that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customary law does not condone family violence.
Family violence and abuse of women and children has no place in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Customary law cannot be relied upon to excuse such behaviour.

"That is the customary law that I know. Perpetrators of violence and abuse do not respect customary law and are not behaving in accordance with it.

"HREOC has stated clearly in submissions to sentencing courts and to inquiries that customary law must be applied consistently with human rights standards. In other words, at no stage does customary law override the rights of women and children to be safe and to live free from violence."

Commissioner Calma went on to say that he had published a book entitled, Ending family violence in Indigenous communities – Key issues, that "provides an overview of research by HREOC on this issue. It shows the inter-relationship between different issues and the complex policy responses necessary to address family violence and sexual abuse in communities. It also identifies ten challenges for addressing family violence and sexual abuse in indigenous communities. To me, these are some of the key factors that we need to address to achieve lasting change. And while the challenges are directed to Indigenous people in this instance, the principles are equally applicable to the broader Australian community."

One of the ten challenges was:

"4. Human rights education in indigenous communities. There is a need for broad-based education and awareness-raising among indigenous communities to progress these issues. Working with communities to send strong messages that violence won’t be tolerated, that there are legal obligations and protections, and that individuals have rights, are critical if we are to stamp out family violence."


Human Rights & Responsibilities Australia concerns itself with preventing or controlling harm and abuse to all human beings

The examples and quotes above focus on women, children, and our indigenous population, however they apply just as well to all human beings in Australia and Human Rights & Responsibilities Australia concerns itself with preventing or controlling harm and abuse to all human beings.

Physical, sexual and emotional abuse occurs in all walks of life and in all communities in Australia. Even the most casual of observations of news and media stories illustrates this whether it is bullying in schools or in the workplace, or sexual abuse and "initiation ceremonies" in a racing stable or the armed services.
Harm and abuse to human beings goes hand in hand with violations of human rights where the fundamental values that underlie human rights are not observed; dignity, respect, equality, justice and freedom.


We conclude with the recommendation of Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

"Our current approach is too heavily weighted towards intervention at the end stages of the process – when offences have been committed and communities destroyed. There has been too little time and resources devoted to community education to build a strong anti-violence culture and awareness of the law, as well as capacity building within communities to better enable them to challenge violence from within.

"In the words of the Universal Declaration, this moment is a test – for the nation - of how truly we believe in the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family."