ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

ACTCOSS supports the Right to a Healthy Environment for all ACT citizens

7 September 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) has supported a proposal to introduce the Right to a Healthy Environment under the ACT’s suite of human rights protections, but has called on the ACT Government to enact all Economic, Social and Cultural Rights including a Right to Housing.

In its submission to the ACT Government, ACTCOSS welcomed the ACT Government’s commitment to fight climate change and to strengthen the legislative commitment to protecting the human right to enjoy a safe, healthy and accessible environment now and into the future.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “We are proud of the ACT’s commitment to be a human rights jurisdiction and to extend protections to recognise the intrinsic relationship between human wellbeing and our environment.

“However, while we welcome the proposal to include a right to a healthy environment (RHE) in the ACT Human Rights Act 2004, ACTCOSS believes the Act should be amended to explicitly include all Economic, Social and Cultural rights. This includes the right to housing, physical and mental health, and culture,” said Dr Campbell.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that ‘all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated’.

“In other words, one right cannot be fully enforced without enacting all rights. How can you ensure the right to a healthy environment if you don’t have the right to adequate housing?” said Dr Campbell.

Dr Campbell continued: “ACTCOSS has also urged the government to include wording that recognises the extent to which environmental impacts are felt more intensely by vulnerable groups such as people on low incomes, people with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and children.

“However, protections should be included to ensure that the right to a healthy environment cannot be relied upon for the purpose of enforcing controls or restrictions that lead to unjust impacts for people on low incomes or on the activities and rights of First Nations people,” Dr Campbell said.

ACTCOSS has also been calling on the ACT Government to implement a meaningful oversight and complaints mechanism, such as recommended in the No Rights Without Remedy petition.

“Without access to avenues of justice for complaints regarding environmental danger or other human rights breaches, the right to a healthy environment risks being a right in name alone,” Dr Campbell concluded.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910617.