Chapter 2 - Influences Subchapter: Societal forces

Human Rights

Key points

  • The Field Model is rooted in the concept of universal human rights to freedom and dignity.
  • Human rights didn’t come out of nowhere, they have been defined in different ways by different people at different points in history.
  • Our modern conception of human rights comes from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights created after World War II.
  • We might agree on human rights, but it doesn’t mean we always do a good job of respecting them.
  • The Field Model can help you navigate tricky relationship decisions in a way that respects human rights.


Why are human rights relevant to the Field Model?


Human rights are a fundamental influence on our approach to relationships.

Stop Ask Listen, the very foundation of the Field Model, is rooted in the idea of respect for the rights of every individual.

But where did these rights come from? Human rights didn’t just appear from nowhere; slavery, conquest, genocide and oppression have been problems throughout human history.

Instead human rights had to be imagined, defined and fought for at many different points in history, in many different societies around the world. Getting everyone to agree to them is an ongoing process—and in times of social upheaval human rights are sometimes abandoned with terrible consequences.

Our modern attempt at this came in the aftermath of World War II, when the United Nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


We did it!

Australia can be proud of its role as one of eight nations involved in drafting the UDHR, and ratifying almost all of the major international treaties that have been developed out of the Declaration.


What does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say?

A poster for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with all 30 articles and icons for each.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has 30 articles. Some examples:


Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion … social origin, birth, or status …

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruelty, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


Essentially, the Declaration requires all people of all nations to constantly strive, through teaching, legislating and other measures to promote respect for the rights and freedoms of all.


How is the UDHR enforced in Australian law?

It’s one thing to make a declaration for human rights, it’s a whole other issue to actually protect those rights for individuals, and sanction people who violate those rights.

One of the ways we sanction people is through laws, but in Australia—as in many countries—getting human rights defended through law is not straightforward.

We use what’s called common law, which simply means law based on previous rulings from judges on particular cases. The idea being that judges look back at what other judges did to determine how they should rule on a case.

Sometimes we create laws through legislation, which is a way of producing new laws in parliament rather than in court.

So rather than starting with human rights and building our laws from that, instead we’ve started with our existing common law and as we’ve found places where the law doesn’t properly protect human rights, we’ve passed legislation to embed those protections.

For instance, early common law did not recognise the equality of men and women, so legislation was passed in parliament to ensure the law would treat everyone fairly regardless of gender.


What should we do?

Day to day, we enjoy rights that we tend to take for granted. But the fact that—within the bounds of the law—we are free to go where we want, do what we want, with whoever we want, and be treated equally under the law, is rooted in the concept of human rights.

At the same time, we often find ourselves competing with each other for resources and opportunities, and if we’re not careful this competition can blind us to other people and their rights.

The Field Model encourages us to see other people as free individuals, and enter into any kind of shared decision from a position of mutual respect, understanding and communication.

By doing this, we can help preserve human rights for both ourselves and the other person.