By Legal Aid Queensland
Protection from inhuman or degrading treatment, access to education and health services, and recognition and equality before the law are just some of the human rights issues Legal Aid Queensland has helped people with since the introduction of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) on 1 January 2020.
Acting principal lawyer Matilda Alexander leads Legal Aid Queensland’s Anti-Discrimination and Human Rights team, providing specialist legal advice to disadvantaged and vulnerable people who’ve experienced human rights issues.
“The Human Rights Act is extremely important as it protects the inherent dignity and worth of all people in Queensland,” Ms Alexander said.
“By providing legal help on human rights and discrimination issues we can ensure that important rights are realised, and contribute to improved good governance in Queensland, with outcomes including staff training, cultural and procedural changes.”
To help connect vulnerable people with legal help, Legal Aid Queensland provides a weekly human rights and discrimination legal advice clinic at the Queensland Human Rights Commission (QHRC) for clients whose complaints have been accepted by the commission.
Clients receive advice about their complaint, the complaint process, the conciliation process and how to proceed if their complaint is not resolved. During these clinics, we also provide minor assistance to clients (like helping clients complete QHRC forms) to help facilitate their access to justice.
Examples of potential human rights contraventions we’ve advised on this year include:
- derogatory, insulting statements made to person with a physical disability, and discouraging them from bringing their wheelchair onboard public transport. This resulted in the person having to pay for a taxi to get to their destination.
- incorrectly recording a transgender woman’s gender on police documentation which was subsequently used repeatedly in court, outed her transgender status to several people, causing embarrassment and distrust.
The team also delivers human rights and anti-discrimination community legal education on request to the community services sector to help workers better understand and identify human rights issues, and how to connect their clients to legal help. Watch our webinar recording ‘Queensland’s new Human Rights Act: what it means for your organisation and your clients’ that we co-presented with the QHRC and Community Legal Centres Queensland in September 2019.