Family at Daymon's Point Ceremony

Discrimination: Know your rights

Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is when you are treated unfairly.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may experience discrimination in many areas of their daily life. For example, you may face discrimination:

  • in the place where you work or when you are applying for jobs
  • when renting or trying to rent accommodation
  • when you go to restaurants, cafes or hotels
  • at the school, TAFE or University where you are studying
  • when you go shopping or when you use services such as banks or clubs
  • when you use government services such as hospitals or transport
  • on the internet when people write offensive comments about Aboriginal people or show offensive videos.

What type of discrimination does the Commission help with?

Some types of discrimination are against the law. You can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission about discrimination that is against the law.

It can be against the law to:

  • treat you unfairly because of your race
    For example – you may be treated unfairly because of your skin colour or because you are Aboriginal
  • treat you unfairly because you have disability
    For example – you may be treated unfairly because you have a medical condition, a work related injury or because you use a wheelchair
  • treat you unfairly because of your sex or sexually harass you
    For example – you may be treated unfairly because you are a woman, because you are pregnant or because of your family responsibilities. Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual behaviour such as unwelcome touching or sexually explicit comments
  • treat you unfairly because of your age
    For example – you may be treated unfairly because you are too young or too old
  • treat you unfairly in your job or when you are trying to get a job because you have a criminal record or because of your trade union activity, your sexual preference or your religion

What can you do about discrimination?

If you think you have been discriminated against you can:

  • talk to us at the Australian Human Rights Commission and make a complaint
  • talk to a friend or a family member about what happened
  • talk to the person or organisation causing the problem
  • talk to an Aboriginal organisation in your area

What can the Australian Human Rights Commission do?

We can give you information

If you call us on 1300 656 419 (cost of a local call) we can:

  • talk with you about whether what happened to you may be covered by the law
  • explain how you can make a complaint about what happened
  • explain how we will deal with your complaint and what might happen as a result of your complaint
  • give you information about other people that may be able to help you if we can’t

You can also get in touch with us by email

We can look into your complaint of discrimination and try to help you sort it out

If we can deal with your complaint we usually contact the other people involved to get their side of the story and let you know what they say.

We can also help both of you find a solution to the complaint - this is called conciliation -

If conciliation doesn’t work out or we can't continue with the complaint for some other reason, you may be able to take your complaint to court.

  • It's OK to stop your complaint at any time
  • If we can’t deal with your complaint, we will tell you why
  • It doesn’t cost anything to make a complaint
  • You don’t need to have a lawyer to make a complaint

To see examples of the types of complaints the Commission looks into and how complaints are resolved click here

How do you contact the Australian Human Rights Commission?

Infoline: 1300 656 419 (cost of a local call)

General enquiries and publications: 1300 369 711

TTY: 1800 620 241

Fax: (02) 9284 9611


Office Address:
Australian Human Rights Commission
Level 3
175 Pitt Street

Mailing: GPO Box 5218

Tel: (02) 9284 9888

Links to some agencies who may be able to provide assistance:

Aboriginal Legal Services: