What are Human Rights?


When I look at the values being promoted in Australia (particularly the ones that make headlines), I do not consider that what is promoted supports my human rights. 

I was watching the media coverage of the protests in Melbourne, and whilst I can appreciate why the protestors are upset, I can also understand why the people who were not protesting were upset with the people protesting.

What I cannot accept nor understand is the very one-sided account of the incident that I observed on television.

When I watched the accounts of the incident this morning, I did not see an interview with one of the protestors enabling them to give their own account of why they were there.

As I watched, all I wanted to do was to ask them why they were there and after watching and listening to the report I am still none the wiser. What I did hear was why the reporters believed they were there, but their account appeared very subjective to me.

At the bottom of my column, I have copied information from the Australian Human Rights Commission website to provide you with an understanding of the rights for which your forefathers fought. 

I believe we need to get back to basics and recognise that only hearing one side of an account is propaganda and does not place any value on us as individuals and does not recognise our human rights. 

The Human Rights Charter came about due to government overreach that resulted in torture and death.

Please see below information from the Australian Human Rights Commission website: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/education/introduction-human-rights 

What are Human Rights?

Every person has dignity and value. One of the ways that we recognise the fundamental worth of every person is by acknowledging and respecting their human rights.

Human rights are a set of principles concerned with equality and fairness. They recognise our freedom to make choices about our lives and to develop our potential as human beings. They are about living a life free from fear, harassment, or discrimination.

Human rights can broadly be defined as a number of basic rights that people from around the world have agreed are essential. These include the right to life, the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the rights to health, education, and an adequate standard of living.

These human rights are the same for all people everywhere – men and women, young and old, rich and poor, regardless of our background, where we live, what we think or what we believe. This is what makes human rights ‘universal.’

Who has a responsibility to protect human rights?

Human rights connect us to each other through a shared set of rights and responsibilities.

A person’s ability to enjoy their human rights depends on other people respecting those rights. This means that human rights involve responsibility and duties towards other people and the community.

Individuals have a responsibility to ensure that they exercise their rights with consideration for the rights of others. For example, when someone uses their right to freedom of speech, they should do so without interfering with someone else’s right to privacy.

Governments have a particular responsibility to ensure that people are able to enjoy their rights. They are required to establish and maintain laws and services that enable people to enjoy a life in which their rights are respected and protected.

For example, the right to education says that everyone is entitled to a good education. This means that governments have an obligation to provide good quality education facilities and services to their people.

Whether or not governments actually do this, it is generally accepted that this is the government’s responsibility and people can call them to account if they fail to respect or protect their basic human rights.

The development of modern human rights

The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw continuing advances in social progress, for example, in the abolition of slavery, the widespread provision of education and the extension of political rights. Despite these advances, international activity on human rights remained weak. The general attitude was that nations could do what they liked within their borders and that other countries and the broader international community had no basis for intervening or even raising concerns when rights were violated. 

This is expressed in the term ‘state sovereignty,’ which refers to the idea that whoever has the political authority within a country has the power to rule and pass laws over that territory. Importantly, countries agree to mutually recognise this sovereignty. In doing so, they agree to refrain from interfering in the internal or external affairs of other sovereign states. 

However, the atrocities and human rights violations that occurred during World War II galvanised worldwide opinion and made human rights a universal concern. 

Word War II onwards

During World War II millions of soldiers and civilians were killed or maimed. The Nazi regime in Germany created concentration camps for certain groups – including Jews, communists, homosexuals, and political opponents. Some of these people were used as slave labour, others were exterminated in mass executions. The Japanese occupation of China and other Asian countries was marked by frequent and large-scale brutality toward local populations. Japanese forces took thousands of prisoners of war who were used as slave labour, with no medical treatment and inadequate food.

Why are human rights important?

Values of tolerance, equality and respect can help reduce friction within society. Putting human rights ideas into practice can helps us create the kind of society we want to live in. 


In recent decades, there has been a tremendous growth in how we think about and apply human rights ideas. This has had many positive results – knowledge about human rights can empower individuals and offer solutions for specific problems. 

Human rights are an important part of how people interact with others at all levels in society – in the family, the community, schools, the workplace, in politics and in international relations. It is vital therefore that people everywhere should strive to understand what human rights are. When people better understand human rights, it is easier for them to promote justice and the well-being of society.

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