Professor Denise Meyerson
Professor Denise Meyerson

The Impact of Human Rights Legislation in Australia

The ACT and Victoria have enacted human rights laws but can we actually tell if they have had any impact? How do you even assess if a human rights law is achieving its objective? Professor Denise Meyerson of Macquarie Law School has been working with Professor Simon Rice of the Australian National University to develop a measurement method.

Their assessment metrics look at whether the enacted legislation is achieving one of its most important objectives – that of fostering a human rights culture. By designing a survey to measure awareness, the research demonstrates that it is possible to measure awareness of human rights legislation among social service providers and legal practitioners. While the sample sizes were too small to draw definitive conclusions from the data, the research suggests that social service providers had internalised human rights norms slightly more than the surveyed lawyers had. The research shows that a survey method such as this is a viable instrument for testing an essential aspect of human rights legislation.

Professor Meyerson and Professor Rice’s work is intended to inform the development of a more comprehensive, recurrent survey, so as to track responses from a larger cohort over time and analyse any associated changes in knowledge and attitudes. This research will contribute to an empirically informed assessment of the long-term success of Australian human rights laws in encouraging the internalisation of human rights as community values.

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