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WEL 303A Human Rights And Social Advocacy

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  • Course Code: WEL 303A
  • University: Jansen Newman Institute
  • Country: Australia


Conduct a literature review on the need to balance ‘rights’ and ‘obligations’ in contemporary  Australia. Your review should include a discussion of the ‘rights’ and ‘obligations’ of individuals and  governments as key players in the human rights discourse. Drawing on theoretical insights, academic  research and current media reports, the review should evaluate the extent to which these two key  players have been able to balance their ‘rights’ with their ‘obligations’ towards others and society.  For example, religious groups have always asserted the ‘right’ to practice their religious beliefs freely  and without discrimination; however, it has often been argued that religious groups impinge on the  rights of others, even while claiming human rights for themselves. Your literature review should  explore this and other relevant debates around ‘rights’ and ‘obligations



The constitutions of the majority of the countries of the world have provisions for various kinds of rights so as to offer the kind of opportunities to the individuals through which they can maximum their potentials (Cole, 2015). Keck and Sikkink (2014) are of the viewpoint that the human rights are the norms or the principles which describe a certain standard of human behavior and are regulated by the legal as well as the governmental authorities of a nation. More importantly, recently it is seen that apart from the ones provided by the national governments of the various nations like the right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and others, the United Nations has also provided diverse kind of rights to the people (Farmer, 2017). In this regard, the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (1948) of the UN is an important one. This essay will explore the notions of rights and obligations in the particular context of the Australian nation.

As opined by Shelton (2015), the unique feature of the “Human rights in Australia” is the fact that unlike the rights offered to the people in the other nations of the world, the rights in the nation of Australia have been formulated under “Australian Parliamentary democracy”. More importantly, these rights have not been formulated through stand-alone or abstract bills but through specific regulations related to the context (Wilkinson, 2016). In this regard, the “freedom from discrimination” was formulated through the Anti-Discrimination Act of the nation to safeguard the aboriginals and other minority sections of the people against the prevalent discrimination in the nation (, 2018). Some of the other important rights which the constitution of the nation are freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, right to vote and others (, 2018). Nonet, Selznick and Kagan (2017) are of the viewpoint that the primary focus of these rights is to offer the kind of opportunities to the citizens, which will help these individuals to lead their lives in a normal manner and also to fulfill their basic psychosocial needs.  

Freeman (2017) uphold the viewpoint that although the constitution has given provisions for various kinds of rights which the citizens have access to and can enjoy at any point of time, however, they come with various checks and balances. For example, it is seen that the citizens in order to enjoy the rights provided by the constitution needs to perform their fundamental duties in an effective manner (Johnston, 2016). In this regard it needs to be mentioned that some of the most important duties that the Australian citizens need to perform are the obligation to obey the law and order of the nation, the obligation to defend the nation when the situation arises, obligation to vote in the various federal and general elections and also in the various referendums and others (, 2018). Keck and Sikkink (2014) are of the viewpoint that the citizens of the nation in order to enjoy the rights provided by the constitution of the nation needs to perform the duties that the constitution demands from them. Thus, it can be said that the rights come with the obligation to fulfill the duties and without them there can be no rights and to a great extent these two key players have been able to balance each other.

As stated by Androff (2015), the individuals while exercising their basic rights also needs to ensure the fact it is not infringing on the rights or the freedom exercised by the other people. For example, it is often seen that the individuals while exercising one right offered to them often infringe the other rights offered to the other individuals. In this regard, it needs to be said that the individuals while exercising their right to freedom of expression often end up infringing the right to privacy of the other citizens of the nation (Wilkinson, 2016). More importantly, this also becomes clear when the context of the freedom of religion is taken into consideration. One of the most important rights that the constitution offers to the citizens of the nation is the right to exercise the kind of religion that they want. However, it is seen that the people rather than pursuing their own religion in the manner which the precepts of the concerned religion demands them to often try to defame the other religions (Shelton, 2015). Moreover, the manner in which they practice their religion often infringes on the freedom of religion right of the other individuals as well. In this regard, it needs to be said that this right is being pursued by the people for the attainment of their own selfish desires not for the fulfillment of their basic psychosocial needs or the attainment of the goals of their life (Cole, 2015). Thus, it can be said that this practice of the people is not only derogatory but at the same time against the normal intention with which this right was provided by the constitution to the people in the first place.

Farmer (2017) is of the viewpoint that the majority of the human rights have been formulated not only by the Australian nation but also by the other countries of the world and the UN on the basis of the “interest theory”. The most important precept of this theory is the fact that the lacuna of the majority of the human rights is “to protect and promote certain essential human interests” (Johnston, 2016). More importantly, the theory, at the same time, states that the human rights should be directed to secure the essential interests of the citizens in a manner which is not only morally but also ethically justified (Keck & Sikkink, 2014). In this regard, the “1st sentence of the Preamble to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)” is important to note. The first sentence states that “Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world ...” (, 2018). In addition to this, the rights should also take  into effective consideration the fact that all human beings are equal and thereby equal kind of rights are being offered to them (, 2018).


As opined by Nonet, Selznick and Kagan (2017), the original intention or the idea with which the various rights were being provided to the citizens and also have been incorporated in the constitutions of the Australian nation has lost its significance and it is being pursued for selfish ends. For example, in the contemporary Australian society it is seen that there are various people who use the framework of the various rights that have been provided to them to maximize the power that they have in the society. More importantly, it is seen that the people practice the rights that they have while remaining indifferent to the rights of other individuals or the fact that the act of practicing their basic rights is infringing the rights of the other individuals (Freeman, 2017). Keck and Sikkink (2014) have stated that this is done not only to gain extra amount of power within the society but also to meet their own regardless of the fact that it is actually hampering the lives of other individuals. This becomes especially apparent when the manner in which the basic rights like freedom to religion, expression of thoughts and others are being exercised by the individuals.  

As stated by Wilkinson (2016), the individuals while exercising their rights need to display intelligence to ensure the fact that the practice of their rights is not hampering the rights of the other individuals. In this regard, it needs to be said that the individuals need to have obligation not only towards the society to which they belong but also towards the other people of the society as well (Farmer, 2017). This will not only enable the individuals to practice their basic rights in a much effective manner but will also help them to enable the other individuals to practice their rights in an adequate manner. More importantly, the role of the governmental authorities is also important in this regard since they need to deal with the cases wherein the practice of one right by an individual has infringed on the basic rights of the other individuals (Cole, 2015).

To conclude, the human rights form an integral part of the lives of the individuals and thereby they have been incorporated within the constitution of the majority of the nations of the world. The primary intention behind these rights is to offer the opportunity to the individuals wherein they can fulfill their basic interests and also psychosocial needs. However, most of the time, it is seen that the individuals use these rights for the attainment of their selfish personal needs and thus not only infringes on the rights of the other individuals but also hampers the fulfillment of their interests as well. Thus, it can be said that the human beings have an obligation to use their rights in a manner which will not only facilitate the use of the human rights by the other individuals but would also respect every member of the society as well. This is likely to help the national governments and also the individuals to balance the rights and obligations in an effective manner.



Androff, D. (2015). Practicing rights: Human rights-based approaches to social work practice. Routledge.

Cole, W. M. (2015). Mind the gap: State capacity and the implementation of human rights treaties. International Organization, 69(2), 405-441.

Farmer, C. (2017). The disparity between human rights policy and parliamentary practice in Australia: A Victorian case study. The International Journal of Human Rights, 21(2), 167-188.

Freeman, M. (2017). Human rights. John Wiley & Sons., (2018). Australian citizenship – Your right, your responsibility. [online]. Retrieved from, (2018). Rights and freedoms: right by right | Australian Human Rights Commission. [online]. Retrieved from

Johnston, B. R. (Ed.). (2016). Life and death matters: human rights, environment, and social justice. Routledge.

Keck, M. E., & Sikkink, K. (2014). Activists beyond borders: Advocacy networks in international politics. Cornell University Press.

Nonet, P., Selznick, P., & Kagan, R. A. (2017). Law and society in transition: Toward responsive law. Routledge.

Shelton, D. (2015). Remedies in international human rights law. Oxford University Press, USA., (2018). Protect Human Rights. [online]. Retrieved from

Wilkinson, G. (2016, June). The human rights (parliamentary security) act 2011 (Cth) and the increasingly visible intersections between the human right to health and intellectual property in Australia. In Intellectual Property Forum: journal of the Intellectual and Industrial Property Society of Australia and New Zealand (No. 105, p. 46). Intellectual and Industrial Property Society of Australia and New Zealand Inc.

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