Following our previous rally, VITS/Language Loop refused to meet with us because interpreters exercised their right to protest. Under Australia’s legal and justice framework, this is a right afforded to all its citizens.
As interpreters from around Victoria prepare once again to rally outside VITS/Language Loop offices on Wednesday 2 October – we would like to address some concerns over participating in rallies or protests.
Do I have the right to peaceful protest?
One of the seven core human rights is the right to freedom of assembly and association.
This right protects the rights of individuals and groups to meet and to engage in peaceful protest.
According to the Attorney-General’s Department,
“The right to peaceful assembly protects the right of individuals and groups to meet for a common purpose or in order to exchange ideas and information, to express their views publicly and to hold a peaceful protest. The right extends to all gatherings for peaceful purposes, regardless of the degree of public support for the purpose of the gathering.”
Please note: This right applies only to peaceful assemblies, not to those involving violence.
Do I have the right to association?
Under the same right, you have the right to join any association.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which Australia is party states:
“The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the right of everyone to form trade unions and join the trade union of his choice, subject only to the rules of the organisation concerned, for the promotion and protection of his economic and social interests. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public order or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Your right to group together voluntarily for a common goal and to form and join an association is protected.
Am I covered by the Fair Work Act?
Under the Fair Work Act, “all employees, employers and independent contractors are free to become, or not to become, members of an industrial association, such as a trade union or employer association.”
Certain rights are protected under the Act including; workplace rights, a right to engage in industrial activities, and a right to be free from undue influence or pressure in negotiating individual arrangements.
You are also protected from unlawful acts including:
- adverse action;
- undue influence or pressure in relation to your working arrangements or wages.
This means it is unlawful for an employer to alter your position or refuse to use your services as a result of exercising your freedom of assembly and association.