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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 31 (2014) Human Rights in Closed Environments

Operationalising Human Rights Law in Australia: Establishing a Human Rights Culture in the New Canberra Prison and Transforming the Culture of Victoria Police

Anita Mackay is a PhD Candidate at the Faculty of Law at Monash University, whose doctoral research focuses on the prerequisites necessary for achieving human rights compliance in Australian prisons.

A power imbalance is present in both prisons and police interaction with the community. Human rights law seeks to provide protections to those who are vulnerable because of this power imbalance, but prisons and police are characterised by organisational factors which run counter to this objective. This article outlines those factors in examining how the culture in such organisations might be shifted towards a more human rights oriented one. Such a shift is necessary in order to comply with domestic human rights legislation (the Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT) and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic)). The experience of the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) in the Australian Capital Territory and of Victoria Police are used as case examples because the AMC required a human rights culture from the outset, whereas Victoria Police had to change their culture when the Charter was introduced. Senior managers were interviewed to gain insight into how this was achieved. In both cases practical strategies were developed that may benefit other jurisdictions. The article shows that these strategies are supported by literature from jurisdictions with greater experience of applying human rights legislation in prison and policing contexts.

(2014) Vol 31 Law in Context p261

   
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