Human Rights - Housing & Homelessness


The right to adequate housing and related rights are encompassed in the major International Human Rights treaties to which Australia is a signatory. Article 11 of the ICESCR treaty states that signatories;

“Recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”

In April 2005, the Victorian Housing Rights Tribunal met for 2 days to hear Victorian’s stories about their housing and homelessness experiences. In the tribunal’s report, Jelena Popovic, the then Deputy Chief Magistrate of Victoria, states;

“The testimonies we have heard highlight the alarming scale and magnitude to which all elements of people’s rights to adequate housing are clearly being violated; and the urgent need for local, state and federal governments to cooperate and meet their obligations to address these violations.”

In 2006, Dr Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, visited Australia. He found was what he described as a serious “hidden” crisis, stating;

“The Special Rapporteur was particularly troubled by the inadequate housing and living conditions he witnessed in some parts of the country, given that Australia is one of the wealthiest developed countries with a comparatively small population. He fails to understand why housing is not considered a national priority. Whilst the waiting lists for public housing are up to ten years in some states, the authorities have not responded by increasing or adequately maintaining the stock they possess. The response to high demands and the lack of public housing stock has been a constant tightening of the public housing eligibility process resulting in significant numbers of people unable to access public housing in a timely manner.”

The NWHN believes that careful and special consideration must be paid by the Victorian Government to ensuring that the rights of those who are at most risk, are most marginalized and have the least opportunities in our community are protected. We consider access to adequate housing a fundamental building block of a healthy and inclusive community and that the Government has a key role to play here.

As the Victorian Housing Tribunal Report states;

“The other dimension of human rights highlighted by the testimonials was the notion of obligation – most particularly government’s obligation to protect, promote and fulfil the right to adequate housing…. Under the international human rights framework, the obligation to protect and fulfil rights very clearly lies with government.”

If you would like to view or download the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) please click here:

If you would like to view or download the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing - Mission to Australia (2006) please click on this link: 

The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities is a Victorian law that sets out the basic rights, freedoms and responsibilities of all people in Victoria.

It requires that governments, police, local councils and other public authorities (for example, government school councils, public hospitals and privatised prisons) consider human rights when they make laws, develop policies or provide services.

It aims to build a fairer, more inclusive community by requiring that the Victorian Government, local councils and other public authorities consider human rights when they make laws, develop policies and provide services.

The Charter gives legal protection to 20 fundamental human rights, such as the right for people to have a fair trial, the right to say what they think, the right to join groups and meet freely, and the right to enjoy their culture.

You can find out more about the Charter by clicking here to go directly to the VEOHRC Charter page

The Costello Lecture - Justice Kevin Bell

In September 2012 Justice Kevin Bell gave a Costello lecture on ‘Protecting public housing tenants in Australia from forced eviction: the fundamental importance of the human right to adequate housing and home’.

Kevin Bell is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and former president of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

You can view or download a copy of the lecture here: 

You can download a VEOHRC fact sheet on discrimination in accommodation here:

Services that can help

The Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic (HPLC) is a project of PILCH. The HPLC is a specialist legal service that provides free legal assistance and advocacy to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness within a human rights framework.

Legal assistance is provided by pro bono lawyers at 13 homelessness assistance services around metropolitan Melbourne and in Bendigo to facilitate direct access by clients and to provide a service that works closely and collaboratively with other homeless service providers.

The HPLC also undertakes significant law reform, public policy, advocacy, legal education and community development activities to promote and protect the fundamental human rights of people experiencing homelessness.

If you are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness and you need legal assistance call the HPLC to make an appointment:

Ph: (03) 8636 4408 or 1800 606 313 (FREECALL)

Click here to visit the Homeless Person's Legal Clinic web page on the PILCH website.

Women's Legal Service Victoria

Women's Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) is a statewide legal service for women, specialising in relationship breakdown and violence against women.

Level 3, 43 Hardware Lane
Melbourne 3000

ph: (03) 9642 0877 or 1800 133 302 (toll free)


Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative

The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Limited provides legal advice and representation for the Koorie community.

Head Office
6 Alexandra Parade
PO Box 218
Fitzroy 3065

Ph: (03) 9418 5999 (24 hours) or 1800 064 865 (toll free)



Youthlaw is Victoria’s state-wide community legal centre for young people. Youthlaw is based at Frontyard Youth Services in Melbourne CBD. Youthlaw works to achieve systemic responses to the legal issues facing young people through casework, policy development, advocacy and preventative education programs within a human rights and social justice framework.

Youthlaw provides free and confidential legal advice for young people up to 25 years of age. Youthlaw also provides legal information about their obligations
with young people to parents, guardians, teachers and youth workers.

Legal clinic – drop-in and online:
Check website for times and locations

Telephone information: (03) 9611 2412 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
Email information:

Youthlaw can answer questions about:
• public transport and fines
• police and criminal charges
• security guards
• family issues
• violence or abuse at home or in a relationship
• schools
• discrimination
• financial support
• employment
• debts
• and more!

If you would like to view or download the Youthlaw Guide to the Law for Youth Workers please click here:

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

You can visit the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website by clicking here

If you would like to view or download the VEOHRC's submission on the future of social housing in Victoria please click here:

Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission is the new name of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The Commission was established in 1986 by an act of the federal Parliament. It is an independent statutory organisation and reports to the federal Parliament through the Attorney-General.

Level 3, 175 Pitt Street
GPO Box 5218

Ph: (02) 9284 9600
Complaints infoline: 1300 656 419
General enquiries and publications: 1300 369 711
TTY: 1800 620 241

website: is a ‘one-stop shop' that provides targeted and practical information and assistance to lawyers, service providers and clients on various areas of law affecting people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Each section includes an overview or summary, details of further useful resources and contacts and relevant precedents. was generously funded by the Victorian Law Foundation. The Foundation's funding has allowed the HPLC to improve the functionality and reach of the former Homelessness Law and Advocacy Resource Manual to better equip HPLC and community sector lawyers to deliver services to homeless and other disadvantaged and marginalised clients.

Click here to visit the homelesslaw website.

The Law Handbook Online

The Law Handbook Online is a practical guide to the law in Victoria in the form of a comprehensive, plain english, web-based legal resource.

The Law Handbook Online features thorough legislation and case indexes that are cross-referenced with dynamic pop-up boxes advising of the latest law changes and updates.

It also features a handy search function to an extensive database of addresses and contact details to relevant legal and non-legal services. Also included is a glossary of legal terms with roll over definitions.

Fitzroy Legal Service is proud to publish The Law Handbook Online - free for all Victorians.

If you would like to view the Law Handbook please click here

You can download Locked Out - A VEOHRC report into discrimination in the private rental market here:

The Housing is a Human Right Project

A collaborative project of VCOSS, Shelter Victoria, Women’s Housing Ltd and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions. The report was released in 2004

If you would like to view this report please click here: