Civil and human rights

This Group covers a broad range of civil liberties and human rights issues, focussing on those that don’t naturally fall within the other groups. Priority areas in the last few years have included: a Human Rights Act for NSW, along with the ongoing campaign for an Australian Charter of Rights; climate justice; LGBTIQ+ rights, women’s rights; anti-discrimination law; freedom of expression; and achieving better and more democratic governance through balanced and effective anti-corruption bodies and reform of the framework for delegated legislation.

We also track Australia's human rights violations.

A current focus area is our right to protest


Submission: COVID 19 Royal Commission

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties is opposed to Senator Malcolm Roberts' proposal for a Royal Commission into COVID-19. We believe that such an inquiry is both unnecessary and potentially harmful, and we urge the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to carefully consider the implications of this call.

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Joint Submission: Reviewing legal protections against forced marriage NSW

The New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties (“the Council”) and Muslim Women Australia (“MWA”) have filed a joint submission into the New South Wales Review of Legal Protections against Forced Marriage.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties
The legal responses to forced marriages largely ignores the victim-survivor’s lived experience of forced marriage. If we are to develop a holistic response to forced marriage, then this must be remedied, and the victim-survivor’s experiences must be considered in a meaningful and tangible way.

Forced marriage is often thought of as an “event” and not the process of coercive and controlling behaviours that can be perpetrated by family, friends, community and others who are in positions of trust and authority.

Whilst a legislative response is required as part of a holistic response to forced marriage, more must be done to prevent forced marriages from occurring. It is in this “preventative” space that holds the most promise in addressing the complex factors that increase the risk of a forced marriage occurring.

The reality is that the majority of victim-survivors do not readily identify themselves as being at risk of, or a party to a forced marriage. Any intervention that exists must include community led initiatives and must reflect the cultural and religious norms within these communities.

Government should be focusing efforts on strengthening collaboration and trust between communities, community organisations, agencies and service providers.

We acknowledge the immense harm that those in our governments have caused with respect to social cohesion when they have demonised communities, such as the refugee and Muslim communities. This does little to cultivate trust between communities most at risk of experiencing forced marriages. Legal protections are only effective if there is community cooperation and further training for frontline service providers and agencies.

We are concerned that legislative reform, such as expanding the standing of those who may be able to apply for an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order on behalf of a victim-survivor, will not address the complex factors that result in forced marriages occurring.

Any assistance that is provided to victim-survivors must not be dependent on involvement with law enforcement or the criminal justice system. Currently, the majority of assistance that could be provided to victim-survivors are often too late and are dependent on law enforcement being involved.

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Joint Submission: Exposure Draft Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 2022

NSWCCL and ACON wrote to the NSW Government to oppose the blanket restriction on the administration of scheduled substances as outlined in the Exposure Draft of the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation. 

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Priorities 2024-26 for the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) congratulates the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (the Special Rapporteur) on his appointment and thanks him for the opportunity to make a submission on his mandate priorities for 2024-26, and in particular on which of the 'new issues' identified by him should be a priority.

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Submission: Climate Change Amendment (Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity) Bill 2023

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has made a submission to the Duty of Care Bill (Climate Change Amendment - Duty of Care and Intergenerational Climate Equity Bill 2023) inquiry.

Australia’s climate change framework currently leaves the Commonwealth unable to properly manage the development of emissions intensive activities. We need decision makers to be compelled to consider the health and wellbeing of current and future children when determining what is acceptable.

We are making our submissions on this Bill on the same day as the “School Students 4 Climate Strike” and are proud to endorse and support the voices of young people on this issue. The Council supports this Bill, and we urge the Commonwealth Government to support it as well.

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Submission: Review of the NSW Modern Slavery Act 2018

19 December 2023 Update: The Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2018 Report was published on 19 December 2023 and acknowledged the significant extent and impact of modern slavery in NSW. The committee was particularly concerned to learn that an estimated 80 to 98 per cent of victim-survivors remain unidentified out of a possible 16,400 cases each year in New South Wales.

The Modern Slavery Act 2018 is therefore an important piece of legislation enacted to address the issue of modern slavery by requiring NSW Government agencies, local councils and state-owned corporations to report on how they are addressing modern slavery risks in their supply chains, and providing for the establishment of the NSW Anti-slavery Commissioner, the first such position in any Australian jurisdiction. The Act also creates modern slavery offences.

This review examined whether the Act is adequately addressing modern slavery risks and whether the Commissioner is effectively equipped to do so. The committee acknowledged that there is clear evidence highlighting areas where the Act can be strengthened, particularly in relation to the detection and exposure of modern slavery, compliance and enforcement, support for victim-survivors and the role of the Commissioner. This aligns with the evidence from NSWCCL in both our submission and our evidence to the committee. 

Finding 1 
That the committee needs to involve people with lived experience expertise in its review of the Act before making further recommendations, noting that this has not been possible given the requirement to complete the report within 24 months of the commencement of the Act.

Recommendation 1 
That the Modern Slavery Committee continue to review the Modern Slavery Act 2018 in the next six months specifically seeking evidence from people with lived experience expertise and considering the evidence already received.
Recommendation 2 
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Modern Slavery Act 2018 to explicitly provide for the Anti-slavery Commissioner's annual and other reports to be tabled out of session or made publicly available immediately after being furnished to the Presiding Officers, as provided for in the original Modern Slavery Bill 2018.

The report can be found here. Our submission can be found here.

The Global Slavery Index 2023 estimated there are 41,000 victims of modern slavery in Australia. In financial year ended 30 June 2022, authorities received 294 modern slavery reports in Australia, which was an increase of 31% from the prior year. It is also reported that an estimated 16.400 people in NSW are victims of modern slavery.

Even with these numbers being 'low' in comparison to other jurisdictions, it is estimated only 1 in 5 victims are detected in Australia. Roughly 1670 modern slavery cases have been referred to the Australian Federal Police but only 31 offenders convicted.

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Submission: Review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the long-overdue review of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act 1977. In its nearly 50-year history, this legislation has had only one review, the recommendations of which were not fully implemented.

In our submission, the NSWCCL provides tangible recommendations that would ensure the Act is modernised to make it simpler and more efficient but also to ensure it reflects changing community attitudes.

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Submission: Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Framework

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (Committee) Inquiry into Australia’s Human Rights Framework.

The NSWCCL fundamentally supports enhanced and enforceable protections for human rights in Australia. The NSWCCL is a member of the Charter of Rights (Charter) campaign coalition, an alliance of 90 organisations across the Australian community and endorses the Charter campaign submission to this Inquiry.

In our submission we have made a number of recommendations for the proposed framework. 

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Submission: Call for Inputs from the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of human rights in the context of climate change

Ian Fry, Australian National University Professor and Tuvalu’s former ambassador for Climate Change for over 21 years, was appointed in May 2022 by the UN Human Rights Council, as the first Special Rapporteur on climate, following the overwhelming vote to recognize the Right to a Healthy Environment, in 2021.

Recently the Special Rapporteur called for inputs on the promotion of human rights in the context of climate change.The NSW Council for Civil Liberties welcomed the opportunity to make a submission.

Climate change is an urgent threat to humanity and to the full enjoyment of fundamental human rights. Threats to the environment are threats to everyone, and collaborative efforts at national, regional, and global levels are required for effective climate action.

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Report: Review of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act 2018

NSWCCL made a submission to the Modern Slavery Review Team in November 2022 outlining four key recommendations to the legislative framework. 

On 25 May 2023, the government tabled the Review of the Modern Slavery Act in Parliament which considers the current legislation and the operation of the Act in the first three years of implementation. The Act and its administrative implementation were considered as part of this review.

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