Skip to main content

Complaint handling - Annual Report 2009-2010: Australian Human Rights Commission

Complaint handling

Enquiries and complaints received

Over the past five reporting years we have received an average of 17 373 enquiries a year. In 2009–10 we received 19 968 enquiries which represents a 15% increase in comparison with the average.

Over the past five years, the number of enquiries received has increased by 76%.

Over the past five years we have received an average of 2005 complaints a year. In 2009–10 we received 2517 complaints which represents a 25% increase in comparison with the average and a 12% increase in comparison with the number received in the previous reporting year. Over the past five years, the number of complaints received has increased by 80%.

In 2009–10, 42% of complaints received were lodged under the Disability Discrimination Act, 22% under the Racial Discrimination Act, 21% under the Sex Discrimination Act, 8% under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act and 7% under the Age Discrimination Act.

As in previous years, employment was a major area of complaint under all federal discrimination legislation. In 2009–10 complaints regarding employment constituted 44% of complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act, 88% of complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act, 36% of complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act and 65% of complaints under the Age Discrimination Act.

The majority of complaints received under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act related to alleged breaches of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and discrimination in employment on the ground of criminal record.These have been the main subject areas of complaint for the past five years

Conciliation of complaints

Of the complaints finalised in 2009–10, 50% were conciliated. This is 2% higher than the conciliation rate for the previous reporting year and 5% higher than the average conciliation rate over the past five reporting years. Of those matters where conciliation was attempted in 2009–10, 69% were resolved.

Complaints under the Sex Discrimination Act had the highest conciliation rate (52%) and a conciliation success rate of 67%. Complaints under the Racial Discrimination Act had a 50% conciliation rate and the highest conciliation success rate (72%).

Complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act had a conciliation rate of 51% and a conciliation success rate of 66%. In this reporting year, complaints under the Age Discrimination Act had a conciliation rate of 48% and a conciliation success rate of 69%, while 47% of finalised complaints under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act were successfully resolved.

Demographic data

Information on the geographical location and ethnicity of complainants is provided in Tables 7, 10 and 11 below.

Demographic data obtained during the complaint process indicates that 50% of complaints were lodged by individual females, 43% by individual males and 7% by other categories. Other categories include intersex, sex not specified, joint/multiple complainants and organisations/individuals on behalf of others.

Thirty-nine percent of complainants reported that they knew about the Commission prior to lodging their complaint. The main identified sources of information for others were legal centres or private lawyers (14%), family members or friends (12%), the Internet (7%), a government agency (4%) and a disability organisation or advocate (3%).

The majority of complainants (58%) indicated that their main source of income at the time of the alleged act was from full-time, part-time or casual employment.

Approximately 35% of complainants indicated that they were represented at the beginning of the complaint process. Thirty-six percent of this group were represented by privately funded solicitors. Other forms of representation were by advocate groups such as working women’s centres or disability advocacy services (19%), trade unions or professional associations (16%), community legal centres such as Indigenous or disability legal services (14%) and family members or friends (14%).

Data collected on respondent categories indicates that in the last reporting year approximately 44% of complaints were against private enterprise, 13% were against state departments/statutory authorities and 9% were against Commonwealth departments/ statutory authorities. These have been the main respondent organisation categories for the last five reporting years.