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Australia has obligations under a number of international human rights treaties to take measures to eliminate discrimination including on the basis of age, race, sex, pregnancy, marital status and disability. In Australia, the Law Council monitors the implementation of Australia's human rights obligations through these Acts and responds to legislative reviews or related matters.

In November 2012 the Federal Attorney General Nicola Roxon released draft legislation that will create a single piece of legislation to amalgamate five existing statutes covering age, disability, race, sex and other forms of discrimination. Added to this will be clauses that outlaw discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity, and extends protections against relationship discrimination to same-sex couples.

The most controversial part of this draft legislation is a change to the onus of proof requirements. Under the new requirements, if passed by Parliament, once a prima facie case has been established, the onus will be on the person accused of discrimination to prove that they were not behaving so. . Some argue that it is for a complainant to demonstrate a wrong had been committed, not for a respondent prove they had done the right thing. The Australian Human Rights Commission said the evidentiary onus on respondents was ‘common sense’ and consistent with other civil claims processes in Australia.

Lodging a Complaint About Discrimination

Laws about discrimination are made at both the Commonwealth and the State and Territory levels. These laws include a range of grounds on which individuals may lodge a complaint including discrimination because of race, sex, disability and age.

Individuals can lodge complaints about discrimination, harassment and bullying based on these grounds with either the Commonwealth or State and Territory. The circumstances of the complaint will influence where it should be lodged. Individuals and businesses in all jurisdictions may be required to respond to these complaints. 

Complaints about discrimination can be made in relation to a range of areas including employment, education, the provision of goods, services and facilities, accommodation, sport and the administration of either Commonwealth or State and Territory laws and services.

To assist individuals and businesses to navigate discrimination laws, the Gateway site provides a snapshot of each anti-discrimination system including information about the grounds and areas of public life on which a complaint can be made in each jurisdiction. Individuals and businesses can also find contact details for each anti-discrimination commission, anti-discrimination board or human rights commission through this Gateway.

  1. Law Council of Australia.
  2. Gateway.