Legislatures and Human Rights Project

This project, funded by the Australian Research Council, was conducted between 2005-2008. While the grant period is now finished, the researchers continue to undertake some work in this field and this webpage will be updated periodically with related publications and conference information

The Legislatures and Human Rights project aimed to provide a comprehensive and empirical analysis of the adequacy of the methods that parliaments employ to ensure the protection of human rights in the various Australian jurisdictions. Through a comparative study it aims to compare their performance with world's best practice. It also contributed to the debate over whether Victoria and Australia needed statutory bills of rights, the shape that such bills should take, and the way that they should be applied.

About the Researchers

The investigators on the project are Deputy Centre Director Professor Carolyn Evans and Centre Member Professor Simon Evans.

Publications and working papers

Read more about the research publications and working papers produced by the project team here.

International Conference on Legislatures and the Protection of Human Rights

The project presented a major international conference in July 2006.

A second major international conference was held in September 2007 and a third was held on 3 October 2008.

A jointly organised conference held in Sydney in 2009.

About the Project

There has been considerable debate in Australia over the extent to which parliaments and the democratic processes do a good job promoting and protecting human rights. Some argue that parliaments ignore the interests of minorities or the politically powerless and provide inadequate protection of rights. Others argue that Australia's generally good performance in the area of human rights demonstrates the adequacy of the existing mechanisms. Academics have also joined this debate at a theoretical level, with some arguing that a democratically elected parliament is the only body with the legitimacy to make controversial moral choices about the how to apply rights in specific, complex situations.

Despite this political and academic debate there has been no comprehensive, empirical research into the adequacy of the methods that parliaments employ to ensure the protection of human rights in the various Australian jurisdictions. This project, funded by the Australian Research Council, sought to fill that gap and to contribute to the on-going debate about Bills of Rights and their application.


Books, articles and book chapters

  • EVANS, CM and EVANS, SC – Australian Bills of Rights: the Law of the Victorian Charter and ACT Human Rights Act(LexisNexis 2008) i-305.
  • EVANS, S and EVANS, C – 'Australian Parliaments and the Protection of Human Rights' (2007) 47 Papers on Parliament: Lectures in the Senate Occasional Lecture Series
  • EVANS S & EVANS CM – Parliamentary Deliberation about Religious Vilification Legislation in Gelber K and Stone, A Hate Speech and Freedom of Speech in Australia 170-193 (Federation Press, 2007)
  • EVANS, C – 'Undemocratic and Elitist? A Defence of Bills of Rights' (2007) Rights Now 10
  • EVANS, S – 'The Australian Senate: Form, Function and Effectiveness' in Rudolf Hrbek (ed), Legislatures in Federal Systems and Multi-Level Governance (Baden-Baden: Nomos. (= Schriftenreihe des Europäischen Zentrums für Föderalismus-Forschung Tübingen, vol. 33) 2008) (in press) (12,800 words)
  • EVANS, S – 'Constitutional Property Rights in Australia: Reconciling Individual Rights and the Common Good' in Tom Campbell, Jeffrey Goldsworthy and Adrienne Stone (eds), Protecting Rights Without a Bill of Rights: Institutional Performance and Reform in Australia (Ashgate 2006) 197-222
  • EVANS, C and EVANS, S – 'Evaluating The Human Rights Performance Of Legislatures' (2006) 6(3) Human RightsLaw Review 545-569 (OUP, UK)
  • EVANS, S and EVANS, C – 'Legal Redress under the Victorian Charter of Rights And Responsibilities' (2006) 17Public Law Review 264-281
  • EVANS, C and EVANS, S – 'Scrutiny Committees and Parliamentary Conceptions of Human Rights' [2006] Public Law 785-806 EVANS, S – 'Improving Human Rights Analysis In The Legislative And Policy Processes' (2005) [2006] 29 Melbourne University Law Review 665-703
  • EVANS, S – 'Should Australian Bills of Rights Protect Property Rights?' (2006) 31 Alternative Law Journal 19-24

Working papers

  • Carolyn Evans and Simon Evans, Evaluating the Human Rights Performance of Australian Legislatures: A Research Agenda and Methodology', Legal Studies Research Paper No. 123, July 2005.
  • Simon Evans, Improving Human Rights Analysis in the Legislative and Policy Processes, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 124, July 2005.
  • Simon Evans and Carolyn Evans, 'A bill of rights for Victoria?' (opinion piece)


  • EVANS, CM –'Enabling Parliamentary Rights Based Scrutiny' workshop on Rescuing Rights (King's College, London, 19 March 2009)
  • Simon Evans, "Interpretation, Reasonable Limits and Remedies", presented at the Law Institute of Victoria Victorian Charter of Human Rights Conference, 18 May 2007 (Law Institute)
  • Simon Evans, "A Territory Human Rights Act? Reflections on some basic issues: What rights? Whose rights?", presented at the Charles Darwin University Symposium Securing Territorians' Rights: Statehood and a Bill of Rights?, 10 May 2007
  • Carolyn Evans – British Influences on Australian Human Rights Acts (Faculty of Law, Oxford University, 24 April 2007)
  • Carolyn Evans – States Bills of Rights in Australia - the Seven Deadly Sins of Bills of Rights Opponents(Gilbert+Tobin Centre of Public Law, Constitutional Law Conference, February 2007)
  • Carolyn Evans – Religious Vilification Laws in Liberal Democraciesn (Castan Centre for Human Rights, Annual Conference, Melbourne, December 2006)
  • EVANS, CM – Key Legal Changes in the Victorian Charter (roundtable on the Charter, Human Rights Forum, Melbourne 18 August. CM Evans was also a convenor of this conference)
  • EVANS, CM – Will the Victorian Charter Make a Difference? (Human Rights Forum, lecture at University of Melbourne, 5 September 2006)
  • Simon Evans, 'Assessing the Deliberative Capacity of Legislatures: A Case-Study of Religious Vilification Legislation', presented at McGill University, Montreal, Canada (Faculty Seminar, 18 October 2006) and Victoria University, British Columbia, Canada (Faculty Seminar, 23 October 2006)
  • Simon Evans, 'Parliamentary Deliberation about Religious Hatred Legislation: Report on a Work in Progress', presented at a Workshop on Free Speech, Hate Speech and Human Rights In Australia, ANU, 8-9 September 2006
  • Simon Evans, 'The Australian Senate', presented at the Annual Conference of the International Association of Centres for Federal Studies, Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, 29 June-1 July 2006
  • Carolyn Evans, The ACT Human Rights Act and Administrative Law Presentation'
  • Carolyn Evans, 'Administrative Law and Australian Bills of Rights', presented at the Australian Institute of Administrative Law Annual Forum 14 June 2006
  • Carolyn Evans and Simon Evans, 'The effectiveness of Australian parliaments in the protection of rights', Legislatures and the Protection of Human Rights Conference, Melbourne Law School, 20-22 July 2006
  • Simon Evans, 'The Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities and the ACT Human Rights Act: Four Key Differences and their Implications for Victoria' Australian Bills of Rights: The ACT and Beyond Conference, Canberra, 21 June 2006
  • Simon Evans, 'What difference will the Charter of Rights and Responsibilities make to the Victorian Public Service?' Clayton Utz, 13 June 2006
  • Simon Evans, 'The History of Bills of Rights in Australia', presentation at the Liberty Victoria Symposium, 13 August 2005
  • Kristen Walker, Carolyn Evans and Simon Evans, 'A Bill of Rights for Victoria? A Public Forum', Wednesday 13 July 2005 at the Melbourne Law School