Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) is Australia's premier independent human rights organisation, utilising strategic legal action, policy development and advocacy to support people and communities to eliminate inequality and injustice and build a fairer, more compassionate Australia.
The Myer Foundation's grant of $1million over four years supports HRLC's work to protect and strengthen Australia's democracy, with a focus on press freedom, civil society advocacy, protest rights, institutions and the rule of law. Major initiatives have included strategic litigation to challenge the constitutionality of Tasmanian laws limiting protest rights, resulting in a High Court ruling providing clear guidance as to the constitutional protection offered to protesters.
When the federal government introduced draft legislation that would have severely curtailed the ability of civil society (the charitable and non-profit sectors) to undertake advocacy, HRLC led a broad coalition of charities in working to ensure the legislation was amended. HRLS has also been a prominent and respected public voice on proposed changes to secrecy laws, laws criminalising the sharing of government information that were long overdue for reform. The proposed changes dramatically expanded the scope of offences and penalties. HRLC was one of only two organisations invited to assist the Attorney General's Department to understand the scope of changes required to the laws. It has been critical to the review and amendment of this legislation, which has significant implications for the rule of law, open government and press freedom in Australia.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when parliaments at state and federal level were suspended, HRLC led the sector in public advocacy and inside-track political outreach to get parliamentary oversight (through resumed Parliamentary sittings and dedicated oversight committees) back up and running.
Press freedom has been a consistent theme in HRLC's work. It responded rapidly to a raid by the Australian Federal Police on the offices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the home of a journalist with a commercial news outlet, successfully calling for a bipartisan review by a Parliamentary committee of the propriety of the raids.
The work of civil society to safeguard and defend democracy is never done. It requires constant vigilance and nurturing as well as specific action to respond to threats such as creeping legislative overreach or the misapplication of existing legislation. HRLC’s work in this area is critical and The Myer Foundation is proud to support it.