Denial of Non-Human Rights in Australia

Posted: 13 Aug 2010 Last revised: 17 May 2011

Date Written: June 18, 2010


This paper criticises the origins and implementation of an Australian innovation in the domestic protection of human rights. Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) states: 'Only individuals have human rights.' Section 6(1) of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) (‘the Charter’) states (in part): 'Only persons have human rights.' The latter provision must be read with s. 3, which defines ‘person’ to mean ‘a human being’. In short, these provisions deny Australian human rights protection to non-humans.

The two provisions have a broader significance, because they form part of a near-unanimous Australian stance against protecting the rights of non-humans.And yet, Australia’s approach to non-human rights is an outlier in the world of domestic human rights protection. It is the stark contrast between Australian unanimity and overseas opposition and controversy that prompts this paper’s critical examination of the Australian denial of human rights protection to non-humans.

The first part of the paper will examine the rationales for the Australian provisions. The second part of the paper will examine how the Australian stance has been implemented.

Keywords: Human rights, Australia, Human beings, Corporations

Suggested Citation

Gans, Jeremy, Denial of Non-Human Rights in Australia (June 18, 2010). U of Melbourne Legal Studies Research Paper No. 499, Available at SSRN:

Jeremy Gans (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne ( email )

185 Pelham Street
Carlton, Victoria 3053

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