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What is discrimination?

Discrimination happens when you are treated less favourably because of a particular attribute compared to someone who does not have that attribute.

Both state and federal legislation protects Australians from discrimination.

What is a protected attribute?

Protected attributes include:

  • race
  • sex or gender
  • sexuality or sexual orientation
  • colour
  • race
  • national extraction or social origin
  • religion
  • age (young or old)
  • physical or mental impairment or disability
  • martial or parental status
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • political opinion
  • trade union activity

Where can discrimination happen?

Unlawful discrimination can happen to you at work, or at school or university, or when you are seeking accommodation like renting a house or motel room.

It can also happen when you access goods and services like buying things from a shop, going to a cafe or to the movies or a medical centre, and it can even happen when you hire tradespeople.

Workplace discrimination can happen when you are employed, or when you are doing work experience, or even when you apply for a job.

It also applies to contractors and volunteers.

The Human Rights Commission

Complaints about unlawful discrimination are initially handled by the Human Rights Commission.

You will be directed to attend a compulsory conciliation conference at the Commission which is conducted by a professional conciliator.

The aim of the conciliation conference is to see if the parties can settle the matter between themselves before it is escalated further.

Matters that fail to settle at conciliation are referred to the Industrial Relations Commission (if the discrimination is work-related), or a civil tribunal like QCAT or VCAT (if the discrimination is not work-related).


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