Your Rights

Like a suit of armour your human rights protect you from unjust and inhumane treatment. They ensure all public authorities, from local council and the police to public hospitals and schools, consider your rights before they develop laws and policies, or deliver their services.

And if you feel your rights have been breached, you can raise your concerns directly with those responsible. You can also raise human rights issues when making complaints about public authorities to bodies like the Ombudsman, the Health Services Commissioner, or the Disability Services Commissioner. And sometimes you can raise human rights when you have a case before the court.


Move your mouse over  on the suit of armour to see your 20 different human rights.

Or click here for the full list.

Your 20 Human rights

1. Your right to recognition and equality before the law (section 8).

Everyone is entitled to equal and effective protection against discrimination, and to enjoy their human rights without discrimination.

For example, a government agency changed its policy requiring a driver’s licence as identification for use of its services. This discriminated against people with disabilities who were unable to drive. They now accept other forms of identification.

2. Your right to life (section 9).

Every person has the right to life and to not have their life taken. The right to life includes a duty on government to take appropriate steps to protect the right to life.

For example, if the government takes on the care of person in prison or foster care, then they must take positive steps to ensure that the person is in a safe environment.

3. Your right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (section 10).

People must not be tortured. People must also not be treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman, humiliating or degrading way. People must not be subjected to medical treatment or experiments without their full and informed consent.

For example, hospitals should have established procedures to make sure that patients scheduled for treatment understand what is involved and have agreed to the treatment.

4. Your right to freedom from forced work (section 11).

A person must not be forced to work or be made a slave. A person is a slave when someone else has complete control over them.

For example, an agency cannot force a person to work by threatening punishment if they don’t perform the work.

This does not include work done in detention because of a work court order, work done in the community because of a community order or a civic obligation such as jury service.

5. Your right to freedom of movement (section 12).

People can stay or leave Victoria whenever they desire, as long as they are here lawfully. They can also move around freely within Victoria and choose where they live.

For example, a parole order which required a man to stay in Victoria while on parole was found to be a reasonable limitation on his freedom of movement.

However a parole order may restrict you from such premises as a school or military facility.

6. Your right to privacy and reputation (section 13).

Everyone has the right to keep their lives private.

Your family, home or personal information cannot be interfered with, unless the law allows it.

For example, VicRoads takes steps to protect the personal information it has about you. It can only give that information to people who lawfully require it.

7. Your right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief (section 14).

People have the freedom to think and believe what they want. They can do this in private or public, as part of a group or alone.

For example, a local hospital sets up a multi-faith prayer room where anyone, from any religion, can come to pray or meditate in private.

8. Your right to freedom of expression (section 15).

People are free to speak their mind. They have the right to find, receive and share information and ideas. In general, this right might be limited to respect the rights and reputation of other people, or for the protection of public safety and order.

For example, people can generally hand out information about their local political campaign in a public space.

9. Your right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association (section 16).

People have the right to join groups or unions and to meet peacefully.

For example, people have the right to march and rally in public to promote their cause. In general, it is the responsibility of the police to respect this right and allow people to rally peacefully. Limitations or conditions can be placed on this to ensure other people’s rights are also respected.

10. Your right to protection of families and children (section 17).

Families are entitled to protection, which means the government must take into account their needs.

For example, a government agency considers the protection of the family and the best interests of the child when providing extra support services to parents with disabilities.

11. Your right to taking part in public life (section 18).

Every person has the right to take part in public life, such as the right to vote or run for public office.

The government must ensure anyone who is eligible to vote is able to do so, such as the people in hospital or aged care.

For example, the government provides specialised computer software for people with a vision impairment to assist them to vote privately in Victorian state elections.

12. Cultural rights (section 19).

People can enjoy their culture, declare and practice their religion and use their different languages freely.

For example, government authorities should provide access to interpreters to help people use their services.

Another example is Parks Victoria recognising the Wurundjeri people spiritual, material and economical relationship with their land by employing only indigenous people in that area's field office.

13. Property rights (section 20).

People are protected from having their property taken, unless the law says it can be taken.

For example, authorities cannot confiscate or seize a person’s property unless it is illegal (i.e drugs), was purchased from the proceeds of a crime, or stolen.

14. Your right to liberty and security of person. (section 21).

Everyone has the right to freedom and safety. The right to liberty includes the right to not be arrested or detained except in accordance with the law. The right to security means that reasonable steps must be taken to ensure the physical safety of people who are in danger of physical harm.

For example, government policy says that any disability service wishing to severely restrain a person must first apply to the Senior Practitioner to ensure there is proper protection in place.

15. Your right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty (section 22).

People have the right to be treated humanely if they are accused of breaking the law and are detained.

Places of detention like prisons, remand centres, or youth justice centres must meet minimum international standards in their treatment of people.

For example, If accused of a crime you must not be detained with people who have already been convicted of a crime. 

16. Rights of children in the criminal process (section 23).

A child charged with committing a crime or who has been detained without charge must not be held with adults. They must also be brought to trial as quickly as possible and treated in a way that is appropriate for their age. Children are entitled to opportunities for education and rehabilitation in detention.

For example, children are able to complete their high school education while in the juvenile justice system. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure this opportunity is provided.

17. Your right to a fair hearing (section 24).

A person has a right to a fair hearing. This means the right to have criminal charges or civil proceedings decided by a competent, independent and impartial court or tribunal after a fair and public hearing.

For example, you have the right to take your matter to court; you have the right to advice and representation, such as Legal Aid if you are eligible; your hearing should go ahead without too much delay; and all relevant evidence should be disclosed. Sometimes, the right can extend to an obligation on a decisionmaker to give you reasons for their decisions.

18. Rights in criminal proceedings (section 25).

Your minimum entitlements when you have been charged with a criminal offence includes an interpreter to tell you the charges against you in a language you understand, time and the facilities (such as a computer) needed to prepare your case or talk to a lawyer, your trial heard without too much delay, and legal aid if you do not have a lawyer.

You are also presumed innocent until proven guilty and you are not obligated to testify against yourself or confess your guilt unless you choose to do so.

19. Right not to be tried or punished more than once (section 26).

A person will only go to court and be tried once for a crime. This means if the person is found guilty they will only be punished once.

For example, a person charged with stealing something can only be tried for that crime once. If they are found to be guilty, they will pay their penalty or serve their time in gaol, and that is the end of the matter. The prosecutors can’t try to convict them again for the same crime.

20. Retrospective criminal laws (section 27).

A person has the right not to be prosecuted or punished for things that were not criminal offences at the time they were committed.

For example, in 2011 Parliament introduced new serious bullying offences in Victoria (known as Brodie’s law). These laws only apply from that time forward. They do not apply to actions people took prior to 2011.

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities

Your 20 rights are set out in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Introduced by the Victorian Government in 2006, the Charter is a law that provides your human rights with vital legal protection and requires all public authorities abide by it.

The Charter protects us in three basic ways.

All public authorities must act fairly and humanely when they deal with you and deliver services. (more)

Public authorities are organisations that provide a service of a public nature, like a public school, hospital or public housing. Public authorities, including Victorian State and local governments, must consider human rights when they develop policies and make decisions that affect the community. This means that the public can raise human rights issues with any government department or agency. These can be organisations like Victoria Police or VicRoads, a State Government department, such as the Department of Human Services or a local council.

State and local government must take human rights into account when they develop laws and policies. (more)

When introducing new laws into Victoria’s Parliament, Members must table a statement of compatibility that indicates how the proposed law meets the standards set out in the Charter. This helps Parliament consider the human rights impact of the laws it passes.

Courts must take human rights into account when they interpret and apply laws. (more)

All Victorian laws must be interpreted in a way that upholds the human rights outlined in the Charter, as far as this is possible. Parliament has the final say in deciding what laws are in the best interests of the Victorian community.

You can learn more about the Charter by visiting the website of the Victorian Equal Opportunity Human Rights Commission and by reading more below.

How it works.  (more)

Much of the Charter's work is done at the front end of the process – when government is developing laws and interacting with the community. This process aims to anticipate potential problems and prevent unfair treatment from occurring in the first place.

The Charter can also be used to hold a public authority accountable for placing human rights at the forefront of their decision making process.

More benefits of the Charter.  (more)

The common language of human rights has made it possible for Victorians to navigate the complex patchwork of laws and service standards. It has been a catalyst for transparency and accountability in government by giving everyday Victorians the tools to question and challenge laws, policies and decisions made by public authorities that have the potential to impact their human rights.

People are achieving real outcomes outside the courts because they are raising their human rights concerns with public authorities through one-off discussions to rectify a particular case, or through more robust negotiations to rectify serious systemic issues.

Related publications from the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission:


“My name is Richard and this is how my rights were protected:

Although I had been suffering from an excruciating hand condition for years, my treatment wasn’t considered a priority because I was over 50. I knew this was wrong, so I got in contact with an advocate for seniors’ rights who could argue on my behalf. They said that by refusing my treatment because of my age, the health authorities were breaching my human rights. After some discussion they were able to obtain one-off funding for urgent treatment and I got my hand fixed.”

Richard had the right to equality, and protection from inhumane and degrading treatment.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


“My name is Eve and this is how my son’s rights were protected:

My son Peter has a learning disability and sometimes finds it hard to concentrate at school. He often gets into trouble for distracting his friends from their work and was even threatened with expulsion. I asked a disability advocate I knew for help. He talked to the principal and told her that before any action could be taken my son’s human rights had to be taken into account. As a result, we were able to keep my son at school and get him the help he needed to be able to participate in class.”

Eve and her son had the right to equality, and protection of families and children.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


“My name is Jack and this is how my mum’s rights were protected:

Mum got around in her wheelchair as best she could, but because there was no ramp access to the footpath outside our house she was pretty much trapped in there. Although we asked the local council to sort out the footpath, they refused because of the additional cost. Luckily her occupational therapist knew about the Charter of Human Rights and approached the council with it. Turns out they hadn’t really thought about mum’s human rights, and after a bit of arguing did a total back flip and built a ramp.”

Jack and his mum had the right to equality, freedom of movement, participation in public life, protection of families and children, and protection from inhumane and degrading treatment.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


“My name is Lily and this is how my rights were protected:   

I look after my parents by myself - dad has recently suffered a stroke, and mum has dementia. Things were going fine until my local council told me that the place we’d just moved into didn’t comply with their planning rules. I didn’t know what to do, so I talked to my community legal centre. They wrote to the council for me and asked them to consider my parent’s rights to privacy and protection of families and children. Thankfully, the council gave me extra time to make new arrangements for my parents.”

Lily had the right to privacy and reputation, and protection of families and children.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


“My name is Nadia and this is how my rights were protected:   

I was worried about my family’s safety after several incidents occurred around my public housing accommodation. I asked if my family could be relocated but the authorities denied my request. I didn’t know who to turn to, but on a friend's advice I contacted our community legal centre. They told the authorities that my family’s right to safety was being violated and helped us secure safer accommodation.”

Nadia had the right to life, protection of families and children and the right to liberty and security of person.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


“My name is Raj and this is how my brother’s rights were protected:

A few years ago my brother Sudip had an accident and now lives with a brain injury. The rehab clinic had been looking after him since then but because his allotted treatment time was up, we were pressured to move him. The only alternative was a nursing home without vital access to speech therapy, where Sudip would have been the youngest person by 60 years. I contacted a disability advocate who raised the Charter of Human Rights with the rehab centre. They ended up agreeing to temporary arrangements for Sudip until a better option could be found.”

Raj and his brother had the right to equality, protection from inhumane and degrading treatment and the right to privacy.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


"My name is Sarah, and this is how my rights were protected:

I'm a mum with two kids, and another one on the way. My husband recently died, but we were making things work, until my landlord suddenly wanted to sell the house we were renting. Looking for a new place on my own, was a struggle because a lot of people don't want to rent to single mums. So I spoke to some people at Community Housing to see if they could help. They said the only available places were in a rooming house, which I knew could be pretty rough environments for kids.

Seeing how worried I was, a friend put me in touch with the Homelessness Advocacy Service. They spoke to the housing agency for me and told them that by not considering the best interests of my family, our human rights were being breached.

The agency then reconsidered our case, and found us a place until we could get back on our feet."

Sarah and her children had the right to privacy, protection of families andchildren and liberty and security of person.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


"My name is Jarrod, and this is how my rights were protected:

The Charter's introduction had a big impact on my life. Because of it, my local council reviewed all of its policies, and actually asked some friends and me for suggestions on how to make the town centre more wheelchair friendly.

One of my suggestions was to remove some annoying steps near the local playground - and they actually listened! So for the first time, I can now take my nephew to the local park.

My vision-impaired friend benefited from the Charter as well. The council installed raised patterns on footpaths to help people like her feel where the footpath ended and the road began."

Jarrod and his friend had the right to equality and the right to participate in public life.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


"My name is Simon and this is how me and my brother's rights were protected:

With Mum working a lot, my brother looks after me heaps. But because he keeps getting into trouble for stuff like not having a train ticket and not paying his fines he might have to go to gaol.

Luckily there were some adults on our side, and they said that because my brother has some learning problems, he should be treated fairer.

I think it helped because my brother still lives at home with us."

Simon and his brother had the right to equality, the right to liberty and security of person and the right to a fair hearing.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.


"My name is Monti, and this is how my rights were protected:

I lost my house in the Black Saturday bushfires, and sadly, some people in our community lost their lives.

Initially, the Royal Commission left the victims out of their process. But our local lawyers argued that the "right to life" in the Charter brings with it the need for a proper investigation when people have died, and that the families of victims had a right to be part of that process. They also said that the "right to life" was relevant when looking at what public services could do better in the future.

This seemed to help, because from then on we got a lot more information, and people were able to talk to the Commission about what they went through."

Monti and members of his community had the right to life.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Jean Paul

"My name is Jean Paul, and this is how my rights were protected:

I have a keen interest in local politics and wanted to participate in council meetings to help my community. But because I have trouble hearing, I couldn't follow question time.

I raised this with the woman at the council, and she said I had a right under the Charter to participate. After that the council put in a hearing loop which helped me follow what was going on."

Jean-Paul had the right to equality, freedom of expression and the right to participate in public life.

To learn more about these rights visit the website of Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Contact Us

To make an enquiry about your human rights contact the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on:  

1300 292 153 or (03) 9032 3583
Fax:1300 891 858
1300 289 621



If you are unhappy with the decisions or actions of:

  • the Victorian Government
  • a local council
  • a private agency that does work on behalf of the Government
  • other public authorities.

Direct your complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman on:

Phone:(03) 9613 6222
Toll free:1800 806 314 (regional only).

While the case studies are based on real situations, all names and images have been changed for privacy reasons.