Responsibility for Rights: The Act Human Rights Act

20 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2004

See all articles by Carolyn M. Evans

Carolyn M. Evans

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School


Australia is unique among Western countries in not having either a constitutional or statutory Bill of Rights at Commonwealth or State level. This year, however, the Australian Capital Territory passed the Human Rights Act 2004 and, in so doing, became the first Australian jurisdiction to attempt a comprehensive protection of rights. The Act is very weak, particularly in terms of the power given to the judiciary, which is obliged to interpret legislation in light of human rights, but has no power to strike down either primary or delegated legislation. One interesting aspect of the Act is the way in which it attempts to give each arm of government a serious role in the protection of rights. This article explores the responsibility for rights under the Human Rights Act of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Despite some problems with the Act, particularly in the area of executive obligations, it represents an important step in a country which has traditionally been cautious about the concept of Bills of Rights.

Keywords: human rights, Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Bill of Rights, protection of rights

JEL Classification: K3, K33, K39

Suggested Citation

Evans, Carolyn M., Responsibility for Rights: The Act Human Rights Act. Federal Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, pp. 291-309, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Carolyn M. Evans (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010
613 8344 1102 (Phone)
613 8344 9900 (Fax)

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