Further, government funding priorities can lead to a lack of appropriate public housing, and disability and mental health services, particularly in rural and remote areas. For example Queenslanders in rural and remote areas are less likely to receive timely diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management of a mental health condition frequently leading to tragic outcomes, including significantly higher rates of suicide than in metropolitan areas.
The recent Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disabilities highlights the lived experiences of many people with disability including the experience of violence, neglect and abuse. Such Queenslanders have no human rights standards to protect them. Violence and abuse pervades many areas of life for people with disability, and includes being indefinitely detained in Forensic and Mental Health facilities, and/or subjected to Restrictive Practices (tantamount to solitary confinement, abuse, drugging and chemical castration) within homes, institutions and schools. In 2012–13 for example, only two per cent of Queensland patients on Involuntary Treatment Orders or Forensic Orders were legally represented at hearings — the lowest rate of representation in the country. A Human Rights Act might provide rights to a fair hearing, and advocacy for such patients.
A meaningful Human Rights Act will identify human rights, require the government to respect them, and provide a reasonable avenue for a person to seek justice if their rights are violated. Legislators and decision-makers in Queensland will be required to consider human rights in making laws and in exercising their authority, filling the gap that currently exists.
EMMA PHILLIPS is a Systems Advocate, Queensland Advocacy Incorporated.