Victorian teacher Belinda Cetnar challenges mandated vaccination laws

Victorian teacher Belinda Cetnar challenges mandated vaccination laws

by Freya Lucas

October 07, 2021

A casual relief teacher is taking Victorian state health officials to court over a ruling which requires mandated vaccinations for those working directly with children, the Australian Associated Press has reported. 

 

Belinda Cetnar and husband Jack have filed a case against the State of Victoria, claiming that the ruling, which requires all school and early childhood education and care (ECEC) staff to have their first COVID-19 vaccine by October 18, is discriminatory and a breach of human rights.

 

Court documents related to the case assert that the directive “is not a proportionate response” to the COVID-19 pandemic, given that “there is a 99.9 per cent survival rate and children mostly suffer mild effects from the disease”. 

 

Ms Cetnar further asserts that the mandate fails to consider the human rights of those it was imposed on, and there had been a failure to consider less restrictive means to achieve the intended purpose, including rapid antigen tests and personal protective equipment (PPE).

 

She chose to represent the couple when appearing in the Supreme Court earlier this week, and it is understood that the couple are seeking a barrister to help them with their case.

 

Ms Cetnar had asked for an injunction to stop the vaccine mandate being introduced, however the mandate was enacted before the case came to court so the couple have been granted until 12 October to put together a new case with a trial to be held 25 October. 

 

In local media coverage, Justice Melinda Richards said they had a well-developed argument under Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights but questioned other aspects of their case. The couple’s current written case refers to civil conscription in the constitution, the commonwealth Biosecurity Act and the Nuremberg Code.

 

“It does appear to me it could do with an experienced lawyer’s eye and perhaps some refinement of the grounds on which you challenge the directions,” Justice Richards said.

 

Loss of valuable educators 

 

Ms Cetnar argued that she would lose her livelihood should she not be vaccinated, arguing that the education sector, including ECEC, “will face the loss of valued staff members which cannot be remedied by damages”. 

 

Justice Richards will proceed straight to a final decision at the 25 October trial, a measure which was welcomed by the state’s barrister Sarala Fitzgerald.

 

It is expected that acting Victorian Chief Health Officer Ben Cowie, who signed off on the directions, will be added as a defendant to the case.

 

Ms Fitzgerald welcomed this measure, noting the pressures on public health officials, and asking the court “to be mindful of all these people, whose time I will be demanding, are also trying to do something else incredibly important.”

 

To access the original coverage of this story, please see here

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