Former Branch President of QLD & Northern NSW Paul Toner describes how community organisations and everyday Queenslanders came together to call for our basic human rights be protected under law…and won!
In February 2019 the Queensland government finally passed a Human Rights Act. It was the result of a four year campaign by community groups holding the government to account. Here’s some history on how it all happened.
In 2015 Labor won the state election, but to form government needed the support of an independent MP. This MP, Peter Wellington, had a list of conditions for the partnership to work. It included the QLD government committing to an enquiry for a Human Rights Act.
A coalition of community groups representing Queenslanders of all walks of life formed. This was the beginning of the Human Rights Act for Queensland campaign. Amnesty International QLD & Northern NSW became a member of this group.
The campaign required holding the Queensland government to its promise of an enquiry. Many Amnesty groups in QLD raised this issue with MPs. Our groups in Chermside and Townsville were especially vocal. It then became part of the Community is Everything campaign in QLD. Particularly in the Heads Held High report in 2016.
When the enquiry began in 2016, a parliamentary subcommittee called for public feedback. This happened through written submissions and public hearings. Several Amnesty groups and individuals made submissions at the time. The Townsville group were also invited to speak to the subcommittee at a hearing. They ensured that there was a supportive voice for human rights in regional QLD.
The result of the enquiry saw the QLD Labor party commit to a Human Rights Act as part of its platform. With Labor winning the 2017 state election we had to hold them to their word.
The Human Rights Act coalition spent much of 2018 following up with QLD MPs to ensure this would happen. The Government released the Draft Act in 2018 for comment. Again Amnesty groups made submissions on improvements to the Act.
Finally in February this year the Act passed into law! While not perfect the Act is a giant leap forward in human rights protection. Much needed in a state that only recently held 17 year olds in adult prisons. It covers our basic rights and further discussion on this will lead to more protections.
I want to give a big thank you to all our QLD activists who contributed to the campaign over the last 4 years. Also a thank you to Aimee McVeigh and the other leaders of the Human Rights Act for Queensland coalition. Your dedication and hard work at driving the campaign led to this well earned victory!