The Charter imposes obligations on public authorities to give proper consideration to human rights when making a decision.

How does the Charter apply to specific organisations?

Government departments and other public organisations such as local government and Victoria Police must consider the rights protected by the Charter in making decisions, creating policies and programs or providing services.

Other organisations must comply with the Charter if they come within the Charter's definition of 'public authority' which is outlined in section 38. This could include a private organisation or a charity contracted to carry out services of a public nature on behalf the state. The Charter definition is explained below in What is a public authority?

Public service values

The Charter also amends the Public Administration Act 2004 to add a human rights public sector value and employment principle. The value is reflected in the Victorian Public Sector Code of Conduct. From 1 January 2007 a public service value and employment principle around human rights came into place. All Victorian government departments and public authorities must comply with the Charter and have regard for human rights in their day-to-day work.

As a value, this means that those working in the public sector must respect and promote the human rights set out in the Charter. As an employment principle it means that human rights must be upheld in employees' daily work.

For state public servants and those working for public authorities, the Charter reinforces many of the sound work practices already in place. While public services are, for the most part, already delivered in a rights-respecting manner, a Human Rights Charter can raise the standard of service delivery.

During 2007, departments and agencies have been training and educating public sector staff and public authorities to become fully compliant with the Charter.

What is a public authority?

The Charter includes specific guidance as to which organisations are public authorities in Section 4 of the Act. The Charter includes in its definition public servants, Victoria Police, local councils, ministers, statutory authorities that perform a public function, as well as organisations that are not part of government, but which perform functions of a public nature on behalf of government (these may be non-government or private sector organisations).

The definition includes a list of factors that assist to determine whether a function is of a public nature. The test looks to the nature of the services provided by an organisation. The Charter intends that a broad definition of public authority be applied.