Intervention in court proceedings:

The Australian Human Rights Commission Guidelines

1. The purpose of these guidelines

The Australian Human Rights Commission (‘the Commission’) has a function to intervene, with a Court’s leave, in proceedings involving issues of discrimination or human rights (otherwise known as ‘intervention issues’).

These guidelines outline the nature of the Commission’s intervention function and how the Commission will exercise that function.

2. What are intervention issues?

The proceedings must involve intervention issues. These are issues of:

(a) human rights (as defined in the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) (‘AHRC Act’));

(b) discrimination in employment (as defined in the AHRC Act and the Industrial Relations Reform Act 1993 (Cth));

(c) racial discrimination (as defined in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth));

(d) discrimination on the ground of sex, marital status, pregnancy or family responsibilities or discrimination involving sexual harassment (as defined in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth));

(e) discrimination on the ground of disability (as defined in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)); or

(f) discrimination on the ground of age (as defined in the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)).

3. When will the Commission intervene in court proceedings?

The Commission may seek to intervene in court proceedings when:

  1. Intervention is permitted, sought or required by the courts;
  2. The proceedings involve the rights of one or more persons who are within the jurisdiction of an Australian court (or of a foreign court connected to Australian jurisdiction);
  3. The proceedings involve an ‘intervention issue’, as referred to under heading 2 above;
  4. The intervention issue is significant and not peripheral to the proceedings; and
  5. The intervention issue/s will not be adequately or fully argued by the parties to the proceedings.

4. Commission process for intervening in court proceedings

Prior to the hearing, the Commission will notify the parties that it intends to seek the court’s leave to appear as an intervener in the proceedings. The Commission should also indicate to the parties the issues in relation to which the Commissioner anticipates making submissions. If a party then decides to fully raise the issues that the Commission intends to argue, the Commission may decide not to pursue its application.

5. Notice to the Attorney General

Notice of the Commission’s intention to seek leave to intervene (and reasons why the Commission considers it reasonable to do so) must be given to the Attorney-General’s office and the Manager of the Human Rights Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department as soon as practicable after the Commission has decided to apply to intervene in the proceedings.

Updated September 18, 2009