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Grounds of discrimination

The grounds on which discrimination is unlawful are set out in Commonwealth and State legislation. It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on any of the stated grounds.

Commonwealth legislation

The main Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws are:

  • the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 - unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin.
  • the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 - unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of disability. 
  • the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 - unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of sex, marital or relationship status, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or potential pregnancy, breastfeeding or family responsibilities (in some circumstances). 
  • the Age Discrimination Act 2004 -unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of age; and
  • the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 - include grounds on which complaints of discrimination in employment can be made to the Human Rights Commission. 

The Fair Work Act 2009 also sets out a number of grounds on which it is unlawful to discriminate against an employee. 

Areas where Commonwealth legislation applies

Discriminatory behaviour will only constitute unlawful discrimination if it takes place within one of the following areas of public life that are prescribed by the legislation:

  • employment;
  • provision of accommodation;
  • education;
  • provision of goods, services and facilities;
  • access to places and vehicles;
  • disposal of land;
  • clubs and sport;
  • administration of Commonwealth laws and programs; and
  • advertisements.

Western Australian legislation

The Equal Opportunity Act 1984 is the relevant piece of State anti-discrimination legislation and makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on grounds, including:

  • race;
  • sex;
  • age;
  • pregnancy;
  • impairment;
  • marital status;
  • gender history;
  • sexual orientation;
  • religious or political conviction; and
  • family responsibility or family status.

Under the Industrial Relations Act 1979, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the ground of trade union membership or non-membership.

Areas where Western Australian legislation applies

Like the Commonwealth legislation, discriminatory behaviour will only constitute unlawful discrimination if it takes place within one of the areas of public life that are prescribed by the legislation.