Last updated 1 December 2020
Section 27 of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (Human Rights Act) states that people of all cultural, religious, racial or linguistic backgrounds have the right to enjoy their culture, declare and practise their religion or use their languages.
It contains three distinct rights that people can exercise alone or in community with others. These are the rights to:
- enjoy their culture
- declare and practise their religion
- use their language.
Section 27 aims to protect individuals and community practices and allows for cultural heritage to survive and develop. Culture is likely to be broadly interpreted to encompass traditional beliefs and practices and may include specific social and economic activities that have special significance to a group’s tradition.
Cultural rights will be subject to the general limitation provision in s 13 of the Human Rights Act. This provides human rights may be subject under law to reasonable limits, which are justified in a free and democratic society. See ‘Human Rights may be Limited’ for further explanation.
General cultural rights, as distinct from the cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have received limited consideration in other Australian jurisdictions.
In one case, cultural rights were engaged when considering an exemption application under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) to operate a public swimming pool for women only during certain periods in order to facilitate access by Muslim women.
Cultural rights are likely to be engaged during the exercise of any statutory or policy power that regulates religious and cultural practices, including those that restrict the ability of people to observe and practise the culture and religion, as well as those that regulate religious education in state schools and the observance of religious holidays. Language rights may be relevant in the provision of translators as a procedural right and the access to translated resources and information.
This example has been adapted from reported cases in Australia. They are provided by way of example only, and are not a substitute for legal advice.