Australia's first bill of rights, the Australian Capital Territory's (ACT) Human Rights Act, came into force on 1 July 2004. This paper describes the background to that Act and its operation so far and considers its value as a model for improving the protection of human rights in Australia. The authors argue that the Act has had significant impact, although not necessarily in the ways that either its proponents or critics predicted. While legal practitioners do not yet use it regularly in the courts, it is already exerting considerable influence on the workings of government and the development of new laws and policies. The legislation has also revived Australian debates about bills of rights by providing a working model that allows legislatures to retain the final word about human rights protection.