What is Discrimination in NSW?

Discrimination happens when someone is treated unfairly because they belong to a particular group of people or have a particular characteristic. This is called a ground of discrimination.

  • Race
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation**
  • Gender identity**
  • Age
  • Marital or domestic status
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Homosexuality
  • Transgender or transsexual status
  • Infectious diseases
  • Disability
  • Carer’s or family responsibilities
  • Association with someone who has one of these characteristics.

**Discrimination because of your sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984.  To enquire or complain about discrimination on these grounds, contact the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Not all unfair treatment is discrimination.  For example, it is not discrimination if:

  • You don’t get a job because you don’t meet all the requirements for the job. For example, you need a driver’s licence to do the job but you don’t have a driver’s licence;
  • You are treated unfairly because of a characteristic that is not protected by law. For example, you didn’t get a promotion because you haven’t been performing your job well enough.

For something to be unlawful discrimination, it must happen in one of five main areas of life:**

  • Employment – when applying for a job, when at work and when leaving a job.
  • Goods and services – getting or trying to get goods or services e.g. from shops, banks, lawyers, government departments, public transport, local councils, hospitals, doctors, hotels, sporting and entertainment venues.
  • State education – when applying for or studying in any state education institution, including government schools, colleges or universities.

    Note: Race discrimination and sexual harassment are also unlawful in private educational institutions.

  • Accommodation – when you rent accommodation e.g. houses, units, flats, hotel or motel rooms, caravans or commercial premises.
  • Registered clubs – when you try to enter or join a registered club or get services from one. A registered club sells alcohol or has gambling machines.

**Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984 if it happens in the following areas of life:

  • Work – including by partnerships, qualifying bodies, registered organisations and employment agencies
  • Superannuation (sexual orientation only)
  • Education,
  • Provision of goods, services and facilities,
  • Accommodation,
  • Disposal of land,
  • Clubs,
  • Administration of Commonwealth laws and programs, and
  • Requests for information.

Discrimination on the basis of sex involves treating someone unfairly because they are male or female.

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour which offends you, or makes you feel humiliated or intimidated. You can get more information about harassment and sexual harassment from Anti-Discrimination NSW.

  1. Try talking to the person or organization involved;
  2. Get legal advice.  For legal help Ph. 1300 888 529


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    Community Legal Centres NSW

  3. Make an enquiry or complaint:

    • To Anti-Discrimination NSW

      You can make an enquiry on their free, confidential enquiry telephone service:

      To complain


    • To the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

      Information about how to make a complaint to the AHRC and the online complaint form can be found here.

      You can complete a complaint online or you can print a hard copy and send it to the AHRC.

      If you would like the AHRC to send you a hard copy complaint form or if you need help to write down your complaint, call their National Information Service on 1300 656 419.

      You can also contact the AHRC via the:

      Translating and Interpreting Service: 131 450 or www.tisnational.gov.au or the

      National Relay Service: 1300 555 727 (Speak and Listen) or www.relayservice.gov.au

For complaints to Anti-Discrimination NSW: If the discrimination happened more than 12 months ago, the Anti-Discrimination NSW can refuse to investigate a complaint. However, this is not automatic so please explain the reason(s) for any delay.

For complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission: The President of the Commission can decide not to investigate into a complaint alleging unlawful discrimination where the complaint is lodged more than six months after the alleged events(s) happened. If the event(s) being complained about happened more than six months ago, please explain the reasons for the delay in making a complaint to the Commission.

You can get support from a support service.