New human rights legislation has been tabled in Queensland's parliament after years of lobbying.
Expected to pass early next year, the Human Rights Bill includes protections for Indigenous cultural rights.
“The primary aim of the Bill is to ensure that respect for human rights is embedded in the culture of the Queensland public sector, and that public functions are exercised in a principled way that is compatible with human rights," said Queensland Attorney-General Yvett D'Ath.
The proposed laws will protect 23 human rights, including the right to:
- Equality before the law;
- Freedom of speech, and;
- Humane treatment in detention.
There is a special provision to protect the cultural rights of First Nations people, including the right to maintain identity, language and connection to country.
Human rights advocate Les Malezer told NITV News the new laws were a step in the right direction.
"For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ever since there was formation of governance in Queensland and the federation of Australian parliament, we’ve been in need of human rights legislation in Queensland," he said.
"I think this is a wonderful milestone with this bill going in, and I hope the momentum continues in the right direction."
Until the 1980s, the lives of Indigenous people in Queensland were controlled by strict protection acts, which dictated - amongst other things - where you could live, who you could marry and where you could work.
Under the new laws, the state Anti-Discrimination Commission will be rebranded as the Queensland Human Rights Commission, and will be tasked with resolving human rights complaints.
A breach of the Human Rights Act would not be resolved through a criminal proceeding, but instead through mediation or remedy.
The proposed legislation will now be open to community consultation, and Mr Malezer is urging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have their say.
"The devil lies in the detail," says the Gubbi Gubbi and Butchulla man, who is a member of the UN permanent forum on Indigenous issues.
"It’s one thing to say we’ve got a human rights law in Queensland, it’s another thing to say whether that law is put into practice, so the parliamentarians have to get it right.
"Economic, social and cultural rights are not really protected under Australian law, so they need to be protected and they need to be well-defined in the legislation as to how they work."
Queensland is the third state to move to enshrine a Human Rights Bill, following Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.