Discrimination in Australia

Discrimination in Australia – Know Your Legal Rights

Have you ever seen or experienced discrimination in Australia? Whether it’s in your workplace, school, place of business, discrimination is just not on.

Discrimination in its different forms is unacceptable and Australian law and different state and territory laws prohibit it.

Australia’s laws against discrimination

Discrimination occurs when a person is prejudged or treated separately from others because of the group or background to which that person belongs or a particular character trait.

The Australian Government along with the state and territory governments have anti-discrimination laws in place to ensure that everyone has equal rights, and are not insulted, attacked or treated unfairly based on their age, race, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

If you want some guidelines regarding the major anti-discrimination laws in Australia, then the information below can give you an idea about what to expect. However, while the federal and state laws cover the same grounds and areas of discrimination, there are some differences between them.

The following list focuses on the federal laws that protects Australians across the country:

1) Discrimination in the workplace and by the government

You have anti-discrimination rights under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986, which protect you against discrimination while employed and by the Australian government. If you feel you have been treated unequally or unjustly based on your race, colour or religion by an Australian government body or agency, or in your own workplace, they you can seek justice with the Australian Human Rights Commission laws.

Other areas covered by this law includes discrimination based on political opinion, social origin, nationality, disability, sexual preference and marital status among others.

2) Age discrimination

The Age Discrimination Act 2004, protects older as well as younger Australians in employment, education, the provision of goods and services as well as for administering Australian laws and programs. The aim of this law is to make sure that you are not treated less favourably on the basis of your age in any of these mentioned areas.

You can also make complaints under this Act when it comes to renting or buying a house or unit and requests for information.
However, you cannot make complaints under this law for issues of taxation, social security, migration and citizenship and certain health programs.

3) Disability discrimination

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 protects anyone who may feel that they are being discriminated against based on a disability. The type of disability may be intellectual, physical, and developmental or it may be a learning disability. It protects you from being treated unfairly because you are someone with a past, existing or future disability.

The anti-discrimination laws for disability ensure that individuals with a disability equally and are afforded the same fundamental rights as other community members. The Disability Discrimination Act covers areas of employment, education and access to premises. In addition, concerns regarding accommodation, sports and leisure activities as well as buying and selling of land are also investigated.

4) Racial discrimination

You have the right not to be discriminated on the basis of your race. The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 has the goal to promote equality of all individuals irrespective of their colour, race, national or ethnic background.

It also makes discrimination based on any of these features unlawful. It is applicable when concerns are raised in the areas of employment, access to facilities and places, the right to join trade unions as well as admittance to housing and other accommodation.

5) Your rights against sex discrimination

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 focuses on promoting equality between men and women and eliminating any prejudice based on gender, marital status or pregnancy while in employment, education or other qualifying bodies. The purpose of this Act is also to prevent and protect you from sexual harassment in any of these environments.

Filing a discrimination complaint

If you believe that you have been discriminated against, and the treatment falls within any of the discrimination laws mentioned above, then you can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. In order for your complaint to be processed for decision making, all of the federal anti-discrimination laws require that the complaint to be made in writing. Your written complaint is then assessed and investigated by the Commission. Based on the decision, the complaints are then either terminated or resolved through a process of conciliation.

To make an unlawful workplace discrimination complaint, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

If your complaint is not resolved through conciliation, then you can take your complaint to the Federal Magistrates Court or the Federal Court of Australia.

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