In this paper, presented to the NSW Young Lawyers’ ‘A Charter of Rights’ Conference, the author considered four aspects of the current situation of human rights protection in Australia: The first aspect is the focus on balancing rights with responsibilities or obligations that is taken by many who are critical of human rights protection. The paper considers the extent of obligations in the absence of commensurate rights. The second aspect considered is the argument that human rights charters are ineffective and the proof is the experience in countries like Zimbabwe and the Soviet Union. The paper considers the range of elements that are necessary for an effective and healthy democracy that is rights respecting and the absence of many of these in those examplar countries. The third aspect is the impact of the absence of protection of human rights for all on one of those few areas of protection, the protection against discrimination for identified groups. The final aspect considered is how those who experience human rights breaches can make human rights much more real and meaningful to the rest of the community.
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