Exemption applications under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

Section 44 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) ("the Act") gives the Commission the power to grant temporary exemptions from certain provisions of the Act.Temporary exemptions may be granted for up to five years at a time and may be granted subject to specified terms and conditions. The effect of a temporary exemption is that discrimination covered by the exemption is not unlawful under the Act while the exemption remains in force.Because the Act already provides for both permanent exemptions (Division 4 Part II of the Act - ss 30-43) and special measures (s 7D) and because any temporary exemption must be consistent with the objects of the Act the circumstances in which it will be necessary or appropriate to grant such exemptions will be limited.

The Act does not set out in any detail the criteria or procedures that the Commission should use in considering applications for temporary exemption. Section 44 of the Act simply provides the Commission with a discretion to grant such exemptions.

Because of the importance of the power to grant exemptions, and its potential impact on rights and obligations under the Act, the Commission has developed criteria and procedures to guide the Commission in exercising this discretion. By publishing these criteria and procedures, the Commission also aims to assist interested parties in having an effective say in decisions about possible exemptions that may affect their interests.

Current applications for temporary exemptions 

Arden Anglican School 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has received an application from Arden Anglican School (Arden). 

The Application is made pursuant to section 44(1) of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) (SDA) in relation to the operation of Part II, Division 2, section 21(1)(a) and/or section 22(1) of the SDA.

Through a temporary exemption, Arden seeks to achieve an appropriate gender enrolment balance within each year group from Kindergarten to Year 12, with the intention that there would be approximate equality in enrolments for boys and girls. Arden seeks a temporary exemption which would apply to all aspects of advertising, determining eligibility for enrolments, and the offering and administration of the enrolments. Arden seeks an exemption for a 5 year period. 

Arden Exemption Application.pdf

Submissions received

The Australian Human Rights Commission invited interested parties to make submissions.

The closing date for written submissions was 30 May 2017.

The following submissions were received by the Commission:

Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW ADBNSW Submission
Association of Independent Schools NSWPDF iconAIS_letter_Arden_School_2017.pdf
Equal Opportunity Commission WA

EOC WA Submission


Switch Now Pty Ltd t/as Just Be [2007] WASAT 134


Commission Decisions on Applications for a Temporary Exemption

Current Applications and Decisions



DocumentsDecision            Date of DecisionDate gazettedDate of expiry    
Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria

The applicant requested an exemption to allow it to advertise for and employ women in a number of roles. This is because the majority of its clients are women and children who have experienced violence and/or sexual assault by men. The applicant states that working closely with men may further traumatise its clients, cause them discomfort or inhibit full disclosure by them.

 Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to grant.

The exemption was granted for five years

6 August 20136 August 20136 August 2018

Past Applications and Decisions



SubmissionsDecisionDate of DecisionDate GazettedDate of Expiry
CJC Operations trading as Curves Gym 

The applicant requested an exemption to allow it to operate its gym facilities catering to female-only clients. Curves offers programs, equiptment and an environment that is specifically designed for women and has applied for an exemption on the basis that its purpose is to  promote a relaxed and safe enviroment for women to feel comfortable while exercising.

 Application withdrawn    
Auto & General Insurance Company Ltd, A &G Insurance Services Ltd, Australian insurance Holdings Pty LtdThe applicant requested an exemption to allow them to price their policies differentially based on a customer's marital status, according to actuarial data about the relative claims risk associated with different marital status.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to declineMay 2012   
Deli Women & Children's Centre

The applicant requested an exemption to provide therapeutic services to only female clients and to only employ females to provide therapeutic and children's services.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to decline22 November 2009  
Griffith City Council

The applicant requested an exemption to allow restrited access to its gymnasium and swimming pool to women only, for regular two and a half hour sessions, outside of the applicant's ordinary operating hours.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to decline20 June 2008   
Crisis Support Services

The applicant requested an exemption to allow Crisis Support Services Inc an exemption to allow the applicant to advertise nationally for and recruit male counsellors to join its Graduate Trainee Program, and at the end of the Program, to offer employment to as many male counsellors who have completed the Program as it considers appropriate.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to grant12 January 2007 12 January 200712 January 2008
Ballarat Health and Fitness Pty LtdThe applicant requested an exemption to allow it to operate an exercise and health centre for males only from 16 years of age.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to grant7 November 2005 16 November 20056 November 2010
Lourdes Hill College

The applicant requested an exemption to allow advertisement for a female Dean of Boarding, Assistant Dean of Boarding and Boarding Supervisors' to be employed at the College. The College is described in the application as a 'Catholic, all girls, secondary Boarding School, under the care of theGood Samaritan Sisters'.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to decline12 May 2005   
Australian Bureau of Statistics

The applicant requested an exemption to allow it to provide training for conducting the Personal Safety Survey (PSS), and to allocate the work of the PSS to primarily female interviewers from its current panel of employee interviewers. The  exemption was granted on the condition that when arrangements are being made with a respondnet to be itnerviewed, the respodent should be given a choice as to the gender of their interviewer, or they can advise that they do not have a preference.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to grant1 August 2005 200530 November 2005
Annetco Inc (formerly WiN Support Services Pty)

The applicant requested an exemption to allow, on the basis of sex, the advertising of vacant positions and the offering of employment and to allow the allocation of work to existing employees.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD

Decision to decline24 November 2004   
Catholic Commission for Employment Relations

The applicant requested an exemption to allow the Trustee to offer teacher training scholarships to male students only. The proposed financial support/incentives would be offered to HSC students to enrol in primary teacher training at university for the 2003 academic year. Male students accepting the scholarship would commit to working within Catholic primary schools for a fixed period following completion of the teachig degree.

Decision PDF

Decision WORD.doc

Declision to decline27 February 2003 27 February 2003 
Department of Immigration and Multicultural AffairsExemption to allow female and male detainees, up to the age of 18, at any immigration detention facility eligibility, to participate in alternative detention, namely accomodation in houses in Woomera.

 Decision WORD


Decision to grantSeptember 2003 15 October 200319 September 2003- 18 September 2005
Department of Immigration and Multicultural AffairsExtension of time for Woomera residential housing project.Decision WORDDecision to grant14 October 2002 6 February 200214 October 2002 - 14 October 2003
Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Exemption to allow Woomera residential housing project whwereby female and male detainees up to the age of 12 at Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre will be eligible to participate in alternative detention arrangements, namely accomodation in houses outside the Centre.

Decision WORDDecision to grant7 August 2001 10 October 2001August 2001-August 2002


Click on the following links for further information:





  • Temporary Exemption application: CJC Operations, trading as Curves Gym (withdrawn)