The Commission has statutory responsibilities under the following federal anti-discrimination and human rights laws:
- Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
- Age Discrimination Act 2004.
These laws set out the Commission’s major functions and powers, which include:
- investigating and conciliating complaints of discrimination or breaches of human rights
- holding public inquiries into human rights issues of national importance and making recommendations to address discrimination and breaches of human rights
- developing human rights education programs and resources for schools, workplaces and the community
- providing independent legal advice to assist courts in cases that involve human rights principles
- providing advice and submissions to parliaments and governments to develop laws, policies and programs consistent with existing national laws and international human rights agreements
- undertaking and coordinating research into human rights and discrimination issues.
The Native Title Act 1993 requires the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner to report to federal Parliament each year on the operation of the Act and its impact on the human rights of Indigenous people.
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has functions under the Fair Work Act 2009 in relation to federal awards and equal pay.