Dealing with discrimination or harassment

Most instances of discrimination or harassment constitute unlawful behaviour, rather than a criminal offence. As such, they are generally dealt with by lower authorities than the courts. It is the person experiencing the discrimination or harassment who normally has to initiate the action to seek some form of resolution.

Policy, grievance procedure and training

Incorporated associations can assist with this process by undertaking some proactive planning. For example, it is important for associations to have a policy (and grievance procedure) in place that deals with discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Training for employees and members about discrimination and harassment may also be necessary.

Complaints to external bodies

Complaints of discrimination or harassment under the EOA can be made to the Equal Opportunity Commission, which is administered by the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity.  The Commissioner has the power to investigate and attempt to conciliate complaints of unlawful discrimination lodged under the EOA.  If conciliation is not successful, the Commissioner may refer the matter to the SAT.

The SAT is independent of the Commission, and is a statutory body that makes and reviews a range of administrative decisions.  The SAT holds formal inquiries into complaints, where witnesses may be called to give evidence.  A decision and orders are made which are enforceable.

Complaints of discrimination or harassment under Commonwealth anti-discrimination legislation can be made to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.  The President of the Commission is responsible for inquiring into and attempting to conciliate the complaint.  If the complaint is not resolved at this level, the complainant may apply to the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Magistrates' Court of Australia to have a hearing conducted into their complaint.

In both jurisdictions, complaints should generally be made within 12 months of the alleged act/s of discrimination or harassment. 

Commissioner for Equal Opportunity

Postal Address:
PO Box 7370
Cloisters Square Perth WA 6850

Telephone: (08) 9216 3900
Country Callers: 1800 198 149
TTY: 9216 3936

Australian Human Rights Commission

Postal Address:
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001

Telephone: (02) 9284 9600
TTY: 1800 620 241
Complaints Infoline: 1300 656 419