Date: 
Monday 23 October 2017

Discrimination on the grounds of disability is the most frequent concern for people who enquire about their human rights or who lodge complaints about breaches of those rights, according to new figures from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The Commission President, Rosalind Croucher, said Australians with disability continue to experience unacceptably high levels of discrimination in their everyday lives.

“The rights of people with disability are especially vulnerable in relation to employment and the provision of goods and services,” Emeritus Professor Croucher said.

In 2016-17, the Commission received 14,911 complaint-related enquiries and 1,939 complaints. Of these, disability discrimination accounted for 20% of total enquiries and 39% of total complaints.

The Commission conciliated over 1,100 complaints during the year, with a 75% success rate.

“The conciliations we manage often lead to agreements that benefit the community as well as the individual complainant,” Professor Croucher said.

“For example, parties in an employment-related complaint have agreed to introduce anti-discrimination policies and provide anti-discrimination training in workplaces.

“The Commission resolved a number of disability discrimination complaints, some of which included agreements to modify buildings and adjust services so that people with disability can access those services as well as enter and leave buildings with ease,” Professor Croucher said.

Discrimination on grounds covered by the Sex Discrimination Act was the next most active area of enquiries and complaints in 2016-17, accounting for 11% of enquiries and 24% of complaints.

There was no change in the percentage of complaints lodged under the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA), accounting for 21% of complaints in 2016-17. This is level with the 21% of total complaints lodged in the previous year that alleged a breach of the RDA.

Overall, the Commission received 4% per cent fewer complaints last year compared to the 2,013 complaints received in 2015-16. This reflects a continuing decline in complaints relating to immigration detention.

The number of complaints made under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act, which includes complaints made about immigration detention, peaked at 485 in 2014-15. This dropped to 273 in 2015-16, and fell again to 156 in 2016-17.

The Commission has published its 2016-17 complaints data alongside its 2016-17 annual report, tabled in Parliament on 19 October 2017.

“Our job is to work towards an Australia in which human rights are respected, protected and promoted,” Professor Croucher said.

“Importantly, the services the Commission provides direct to the Australian community are free.

“The practical outcome of our information and conciliation services is that most people agree to resolve disputes about discrimination and breaches of human rights.

“Much of our work is also at the policy level. We encourage government, industry and community groups to take the steps necessary to see fundamental rights and freedoms realised.

“We build the case for change on issues ranging from age discrimination in employment to addressing sex discrimination in sport. This is complemented by wide-ranging educational outreach.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission is Australia’s national human rights institution. It operates under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) as well as federal laws that seek to ensure freedom from discrimination on the basis of age, disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, intersex status and gender identity.