September 2021

The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is recognised in article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Like many other rights, the right to health is interrelated with and dependent upon the realisation of a number of other human rights.

This report provides an overview of the human right to health, how it applies in the Australian context and examines how its implementation might differ if acknowledged as a right to health incorporated in a national charter of rights.

Many of the ICESCR rights, including the right to health, are reflected in the provision of public services in Australia, but such services cannot be claimed as a right and can be withdrawn at any time.

A national charter of rights and freedoms would benefit the whole Australian community and have an important impact on the protection of health rights in Australia. It would help prevent human rights violations, provide a powerful tool for challenging injustices and foster a culture of understanding and respect for human rights.

A right to health would help promote the principles of accessibility, availability, acceptability and equality consistently in health systems across Australia and would be a powerful first step in achieving equal access to health for everyone.

The Australian Human Rights Institute has joined with other leading rights organisations in Australia to campaign for a national charter of rights. We believe that a full right to health should be recognised in a charter so that everyone can access quality healthcare when they need it, regardless of their background.

You can visit for more information on this campaign and to keep up to date with its news and activities.

Report authors

Lubna Sherieff
Alicia McKenzie
Alfred Nguyen
Rabiba Pervez