In Australia there are both federal laws covering everyone and local laws covering people in a particular state or territory.

There is some overlap with South Australian and federal equal opportunity law - the main difference is the types of discrimination covered.

If there is a clash between federal and state or territory laws, the federal law overrides them.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 came after Australia signed the United Nations' International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their:

  • sex - male or female
  • intersex status
  • gender identity
  • sexual orientation
  • marital or relationship status - whether a person is single, married, widowed, divorced, separated or living in a de facto relationship
  • pregnancy or potential pregnancy
  • family responsibilities - an employee's duty to care for or support a dependent child or immediate family member (only in dismissal cases).

The Act also makes sexual harassment unlawful.

Learn more about the Act on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Who should I contact?

Australian Human Rights Commission

Phone: 1300 369 711

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 came after Australia signed the United Nations' International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their:

  • race
  • colour
  • descent
  • national or ethnic origin.

The Act also covers offensive behaviour based on racial hatred under sections 18C and 18D.

Learn more about the Act on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Who should I contact?

Australian Human Rights Commission

Phone: 1301 369 711

The Age Discrimination Act 2004 makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their age in:

  • employment
  • the provision of goods, services and facilities
  • accommodation
  • education
  • access to premises.

The Act contains a number of exemptions to allow age requirements for such things as drinking, voting, driving and marrying.

Learn more about the Act on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Who should I contact?

Australian Human Rights Commission

Phone: 1303 369 711

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 came after Australia signed the United Nations' Declarations on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons and the Rights of Disabled Persons.

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their disability.

Disability includes:

  • physical
  • intellectual
  • psychiatric
  • sensory
  • neurological
  • learning disability
  • physical disfigurement
  • presence in the body of a disease-carrying organism, such as the HIV virus.

Learn more about the Act on the Australian Human Rights Commission website.

Who should I contact?

Australian Human Rights Commission

Phone: 1302 369 711

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 came in after Australia signed the following United Nations conventions:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • Declaration on the Rights of the Child
  • Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons
  • Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons.

and the International Labour Organization's:

  • Convention 111, concerning discrimination in employment and occupation
  • Convention 156, concerning workers with family responsibilities.

This Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against people because of their:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • religion
  • political opinion (in employment only)
  • national extraction or social origin
  • age
  • medical record
  • irrelevant criminal record (in employment only)
  • impairment
  • marital status
  • mental, intellectual or psychiatric disability
  • nationality
  • physical disability
  • sexual preference (in employment only)
  • trade union activity (in employment only).

Complaints made under the Act should be made to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Who should I contact?

Australian Human Rights Commission

Phone: 1303 369 711

The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 aims to improve and promote equality for both women and men in the workplace.

The principle objects of the Act are to:

  • promote and improve gender equality (including equal remuneration between women and men) in employment and in the workplace
  • support employers to remove barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce, in recognition of the disadvantaged position of women in relation to employment matters
  • promote, amongst employers, the elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender in relation to employment matters (including in relation to family and caring responsibilities)
  • foster workplace consultation between employers and employees on issues concerning gender equality in employment and in the workplace
  • improve the productivity and competitiveness of Australian business through the advancement of gender equality in employment and in the workplace.

This Act requires non-public sector employers with 100 or more staff (relevant employers) to submit a report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency each year about gender equality issues.

Who should I contact?

Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Phone: 1800 730 233

The Privacy Act 1988 came after Australia signed the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Act lays down strict privacy safeguards for Federal Government departments to follow when dealing with information about people.  It applies to collecting, storing, using or allowing anyone else to use personal information.

Learn more about the Act on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.

Who should I contact?

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

Phone: 1300 363 992