>An Australian Human rights charter, possibility or pipe dream?

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Last Friday the 3rd of July was the end of a national conference in Australia debating the merits of adopting an Australian Federal Charter of Human rights.

The Charter would add a further protection for individuals at risk of having their rights violated by the state and benefit those in our society most at risk of human rights abuses such as Indigenous Australians, people with a mental illness, children, the elderly, religious minorities and the homeless.
But does legislating on human rights actually provide protection against those (including Governments) who would abuse them.
In Britain, a country that has a human rights charter the legislation did not protect Ian Tomlinson from Police as he walked home with his hands in his pockets on April 1st 2001 or 3000 protesters who were denied access to food, drink, water and toilet facilities for seven hours. The right to peaceful protest is enshrined in British Law however the British House of Lords ruled that this clear deprivation of liberty was not unlawful. Further more the legislation did not require a review of police tactics.
So if governments can choose to ignore protections or make laws which circumvent our basic human rights whenever it suits them how do we ensure our own protection? As events in Iran and in many other parts of the world have shown us one of the key elements of a free society is a population with a passionate and robust belief in its own right to live without fear of imprisonment and coercion, and with the chance to choose its own destiny. This begs the question, do any of us really live in a free society?
A human rights charter would be put down by critics as merely ink on a page but symbols have a powerful impact on the human psyche. It would be naive to think that such a charter would protect us completely but having it there will act like a candlelight in the darkness. It would offer those of us most in need of help a rallying point and raise the rest of us just that little bit higher. It would be a chance for us as a society to declare that we hold human rights to be one of the pillars on which our Civilization stands and even if it is only a dream it will give future generations of legislators a lighthouse but which to navigate the expectations of the people.
Human rights protection requires education not only legislation. Laws can only force people to act in a way that is desirable by society. Education brings understanding. But more than anything respect for human rights begins right where you are standing, within your own head and your own heart.
I wish you all happiness and abundance.
Shannon

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