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Discrimination & Human Rights

On this page

Under Construction

Under Construction

    We are currently reviewing this page for Queensland.

    This version is for South Australia. The State Laws and Courts in Queensland are different. Do not use this page without legal advice.

What is discrimination?

Many forms of discrimination are acceptable. It is acceptable to discriminate against a job applicant with little work experience by not giving them that job. However, some forms of discrimination are deemed unfair and thus unacceptable by the law. This includes discriminating against someone because of their age, race, sex or disability.

The law protects our right to be treated fairly under both State and Federal laws.

When is discrimination unlawful under SA law?

In South Australia, it is unlawful to discriminate because of:

  • age
  • association with a child (in customer service)
  • caring responsibilities
  • chosen gender
  • disability
  • marital or domestic partnership status
  • pregnancy
  • race
  • religious appearance or dress (in work or study)
  • sex
  • sexuality
  • spouse or partner's identity

Discrimination laws also cover:

  • sexual harassment
  • victimisation
  • whistleblowing.

See the Equal Opportunity Commission website for more information on this.

Federal Discrimination Laws

The federal government also makes certain types of discrimination illegal.

Discrimination based on sexual preference, criminal record, trade union activity, political opinion, religion or social origin is also unlawful (but only in relation to employment or acts of the Commonwealth - although the State laws may still apply).

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Acts, Regulations, Rules & Forms

Are you looking for detailed information like this, or contact details for any of the bodies mentioned on this page. If so, then start on our Discrimination Law for Lawyers page.

If it isn't there, then start on our Finding Detailed Legal Information page.

Please read our warning on that page "Be careful using these resources".

The Law is not always as straightforward as it appears. We have not included any information about when and how to use that information or any traps. We assume that the Lawyers will know this.

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How can discrimination law help you?

If you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against, you may make a complaint to theEqual Opportunity Commissionor theAustralian Human Rights Commission (See “Making a complaint” below).

If the Equal Opportunity Commission considers that you have a legitimate complaint, then they will organise a conciliation meeting for you to discuss the problem with the person or organisation you complained about.

If conciliation is successful, an agreement can be made between you and the other party to solve the problem. If conciliation is unsuccessful, the Equal Opportunity Commissioner, with your consent, can refer your case to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal for a formal hearing.

There is more information about what concilliation involves in pamphlet on Making a Complaint.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has a very similar process. First, it also investigates the complaint by talking to both yourself and the person or organisation you are complaining about. A conciliation meeting will then be organised. If the complaint can’t be resolved, you can bring your matter to the Federal Circuit’ Court, or Federal Court, for hearing.

For information about making a complaint to the AHRC and the process of how this is handeld visit their Complaints Information Pages.

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How do I complain or defend a complaint?

Time limits apply, so you should act quickly seeking legal advice and in making the complaint or responding to it..

Seeking legal advice before doing this, or taking other legal action, is an option depending on the seriousness of the consequences of what has happened.

Which body do I complain to?

The Australian Human Rights Commission and Equal Opportunity Commission are very similar in the complaints they handle.

However, there are some differences in what kinds of discrimination they deal with. This page from the EOC website discusses your choices about which body you should complain to.

Whistleblowers’ protection

See the Law Handbook (S.A.) - Whistleblowers for information about when you will protected from discrimination (or penalties) for disclosing information about misconduct by a public body or public officer.


Racial hatred and vilification

Racial hatred and vilification laws prevent people from:

  • publicly saying or doing things relating to the race of a person that are likely to offend, insult, humiliate, or intimidate that person, and,
  • inciting hatred, ridicule, or contempt for a group of people on the basis of their race by threatening physical harm or property harm, or inciting others to so threaten.

For information on racial vilification see:

Employers and discrimination law

Human Rights Commission information for employers has information on the Discrimination Laws from an employer's perspective.

You can learn about your responsibilities as an employer. Learn how to develop effective workplace policies and best practice guidelines. And find information on establishing and implementing a complaints procedure.

In general, employers are legally responsible for the actions of their employees. The same applies if somebody is acting on your behalf. This applies even if you didn't know what they were doing or didn't ask them to act in this way. Many of the big cases you see in the press involve an employer being sued because of bad behaviour by these other people.

AHRC information on Handling Complaints.

The EOC has an Employer Toolkit that assists employers to put proper procedures and policies in place to ensure their workplaces stay discrimination-free.

They also have information on Responding to a Complaint.

Other Resources