Social Justice Charter and Citizen’s Bill of Rights
Hume City Council
A city charter that promises equality and human rights for all city residents
“This Charter seeks to advance a fair and just society and to promote respect for every citizen, encourage community participation, strengthen community wellbeing and reduce the causes of disadvantage.”
The opening words of the Hume City Social Justice Charter preamble could not be clearer: this inclusive vision of community for all residents, whether immigrants or third generation Australian, encourages all to partake equally in the life of the city.
The Social Justice Charter lays out a compelling, welcoming vision for the municipality, one that installs human rights at the heart of civic life. The first of its kind in Australia, it is centred on the notion of equality – more specifically, on the goal of helping the disadvantaged to realize economic and social equality.
In this regard, the Hume City Charter is quite remarkable. By focusing on human rights, Hume City steps back from considerations of “us” and “them,” and lays aside questions of national, religious or cultural identity. According to the Charter, citizenship doesn’t matter. So long as you find yourself residing in Hume City, for whatever reason or duration, you are an equal member within its urban community.
Charting a new course for social justice
Hume City is located in the southeastern state of Victoria, 20 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, and has one of the highest immigrant and low-income Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Australia. Almost 30% of a population of 167,000 is born overseas, representing 140 nationalities with 125 languages other than English spoken at home. The city’s challenge was how it would address issues of social cohesion and encourage community participation, especially amongst immigrants and indigenous peoples.
Introduced in 2000, the Hume City Social Justice Charter affirms “Hume City Council’s commitment to social justice and human rights.” Developed after extensive review and community consultation,the Charter was revised in 2004 to include a Citizens’ Bill of Rights, using the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. Since Hume City Council sees the charter as a “living document,” it was revised again in 2007 to include the State of Victoria’s own newly-created Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Additionally, the current charter is available in Arabic, Assyrian, Greek, Italian, Turkish and Vietnamese.
The charter was not meant to be a list of worthy intentions. Embedded in the social justice framework is a practical emphasis on principles, rights, actions and accountability. To implement the charter, Hume City developed eight Social Justice Action Plans covering issues such as community empowerment, diversity and affordable housing. Each of these three-year plans included measureable outcomes which are reported annually and posted on the city website. In the 2010 final report of the One City, Many Cultures Action Plan, new projects included the re-activation of the Hume Interfaith Network, developing a bilingual story time at local libraries, and the adoption of an information telephone service connecting calls with multilingual interpreters.
Since Hume City’s efforts preceded the state of Victoria’s own Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, it was a logical place for the state government to run a pilot project, Everyday People, Everyday Rights, to help residents better understand and assert their rights. More than 5,000 people participated in a variety of activities that resulted in the development of a Human Rights Passport (published in English, Turkish and Arabic), extensive media coverage, and the training of 35 human rights community educators.
Following the lead of Hume City, other Australian municipalities have followed with their own charters. The City of Ryde, northwest of central Sydney, adopted a Social Justice Charter in 2008 to help the city commit to building a just and inclusive community as did the City of Port Phillip, Victoria in 2011.
Making it Work for You:
- Local governments’ commitment to equality and human rights is important as it guides communities, NGOs and businesses actions. A Charter is a requirement to actively consider human rights when passing or making laws, adopting policies, delivering services, etc.
- A city charter needs to go beyond listing principles and rights. Include action plans, ways to measure progress, and ensure public accountability through regular web updates.
- Consult extensively with communities to create a Charter that is clear and accessible to all.
For this Good Idea contact:
Hume City Council
PO Box 119 Dallas 3047
Hume City, Australia,