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  • Written by ACT Government

Released 01/12/2022 - Joint media release

The 25 year battle to restore Territory Rights has been won.

The ACT and NT have had our democratic rights restored with Senators voting in favour of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill. 

This follows the 99-37 vote in the House of Representatives in early August.

“Thank you to everyone who has actively campaigned to resolve an injustice that for 25 years has seen ACT and NT citizens denied their democratic rights,” Chief Minister Andrew Barr said.

“In particular we thank the Senators and Members who voted in favour of Territory rights and particularly acknowledge the work of our ACT Senators Katy Gallagher and David Pocock, as well as ACT MPs Alicia Payne, Andrew Leigh and David Smith.”

“The passing of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill removes the constraints that the Commonwealth Government placed on the legislative powers of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory in 1997,” said Human Rights Minister Tara Cheyne.

“For too long, Canberrans have been treated like second class citizens, with the laws preventing the Legislative Assembly and ACT community from considering an issue that deeply matters to them. This became increasingly unconscionable as all six states progressively legislated for voluntary assisted dying.”

“The passing of this Bill is a victory for democratic rights and human rights, and the result of a campaign more than a decade in the making.”

“I credit the persistence of Canberrans in creating the momentum we needed to ensure that this issue got the attention it deserved, and thank the Federal Labor Government for honouring its commitment to facilitate the passage and vote on the Bill,” Minister Cheyne said.

With the federal veto now removed, the ACT Government will begin a consultation process with the ACT community in February 2023 to help shape what voluntary assisted dying laws will look like in the ACT.

“Minister Cheyne will lead the ACT Government work, supported by Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith and the Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury and myself,” Chief Minister Barr said.

The ACT Government will use the Christmas and new year period to refine and finalise the public consultation process, which will include a detailed discussion paper and questions on which all interested stakeholders and the ACT community will be invited to have their say. The consultation will run for a minimum of eight weeks.

“We are in a position of being able to draw on experiences from the laws which exist in the states, several of which are operational. We also want the legislation to reflect the views and values of the Canberra community,” Minister Cheyne said.

Following the conclusion of the consultation process, the Government will prepare and release a listening report on the feedback provided during the consultation, with plans to introduce a Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill to the ACT Legislative Assembly in the second half of 2023.  It is anticipated that a parliamentary committee would then review the legislation over a minimum three month period.

“It’s important that any legislation has broad community and clinical support. We know we have a community which is ready to engage with this process, which will be so important in shaping and informing the development of voluntary assisted dying laws in the ACT,” said Minister Cheyne.

The ACT Government has previously surveyed Canberrans on their views of voluntary assisted dying in 2018, with more than 80% of those surveyed supporting end of life support.

“Canberra is a compassionate and progressive jurisdiction, but for the last 26 years we have been treated as second-class citizens - unable to even start the conversation about this important issue because of an archaic and undemocratic bill. This is a momentous day for the ACT and Northern Territory, and I am pleased that we can now genuinely start this conversation with the Canberra community." said Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury.

If the issue of a voluntary assisted dying law raises issues for you or your family, help is available: Lifeline (Call 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au) and Beyond Blue (Call 1300 22 4636 or beyond.blue.org.au)

- Statement ends -

Andrew Barr, MLA | Tara Cheyne, MLA | Media Releases

«ACT Government Media Releases | «Minister Media Releases

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