Canberra. Inclusive. Progressive. Equal.

The ACT Government wants to modernise discrimination law to support best practice in promoting equal opportunity, respect for diversity and social inclusion.

Discrimination Law Reform

Discrimination can affect people in their day-to-day lives – at work or in education, accessing government services, participating in sport, joining a club, or practising a religion.

An ACT Government priority is to modernise our discrimination law and put the ACT at the forefront of best practice in promoting equal opportunity, respect for diversity and social inclusion in our community.

This is a key part of the ACT Government’s Capital of Equality Strategy, and the next step in implementing recommendations from the ACT Law Reform Advisory’s Council 2015 Review of the Discrimination Act 1991.

In 2021 and 2022, Canberrans were asked to have their say on the reforms to the Discrimination Act 1991. We are all responsible for preventing discrimination and the Government hopes to hear from a wide section of our community that are affected. 

Did you know?

The ACT was the first place in Australia to protect people from discrimination because they are a carer. The ACT was also the first to legislate broad protections from sexual harassment across different areas of life, e.g. on campus.

The issues

The Government is consulting the public on several issues:

  • What is the best way to ensure discrimination laws protect people in all areas of public life?
  • How can exceptions to discrimination law be made simpler and consistent with human rights?
  • Should there be a positive obligation on organisations to eliminate discrimination?

The process

  • The Government released a Discussion Paper on 22 October 2021 on the YourSay consultation hub to seek views from members of the public about changes to discrimination law.
     
  • The Discussion Paper was supported by  a series of short Consultation Guides on YourSay on each of the specific discussion topics. Submissions on the proposed reform of the Discrimination Act 1991 closed 30 January 2022.
     
  • A Listening Report on what we heard during the consultation process was published on YourSay  on 7 April 2022.
     
  • Feedback from the consultation has been used to develop an Exposure Draft Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022. The Exposure Draft Bill was available for feedback from 1 June 2022 until 1 July 2022 through YourSay here. It can be found on the ACT Legislation Register. A Fact Sheet on the Exposure Draft Bill is available on YourSay and at the end of this page.
     
  • Late 2022. the ACT Government considers community feedback on the Exposure Draft Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022.

The issues

PUBLIC LIFE  - Did you know? The ACT’s Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in six areas of public life:

  • Work
  • Membership of clubs with liquor licences
  • Education
  • Access to premises
  • Provision of goods, services and facilities
  • Accommodation

Complaints can be brought against anyone as long as their conduct occurred in one of these areas. This covers most, but not all public activity. 
 
The Government thinks discrimination law should simply apply to any activity that is not in private. We would like your views on how best to define what is public and what is private.

EXCEPTIONS – Did you know? The Discrimination Act contains 50 exceptions that allow discrimination to occur in certain defined circumstances?

Exceptions apply to religious bodies, licensed clubs, voluntary bodies, sport, work, employment in private homes, and insurance and superannuation companies.

The consultation will look at ways to simplify and narrow current exceptions where it needs to be better aligned with our human rights framework.

POSITIVE OBLIGATION – Did you know? The Discrimination Act requires individuals to make a complaint before action can be taken to address discrimination.

A positive duty to eliminate discrimination requires organisations to identify areas where discrimination may occur and to take steps to prevent this. A positive duty can be imposed on government agencies or may apply more broadly to other organisations and businesses.

A positive duty would be consistent with the ACT Human Rights Act and could assist to create a culture of equality and stop discrimination.

The consultation explored whether the Discrimination Act should contain a positive duty to eliminate discrimination.

Statement of principles

Broader and Stronger

Broader and Stronger Protections

Any changes to discrimination law should create broader and stronger protections to send a clear message that our society believes in equality and respect.

user friendly

Clear, Simple and User-Friendly

Discrimination laws should be as clear, simple and user-friendly as 
possible to make it easier for people to know their rights and obligations and bring and respond to claims.

human rights

Align with our Human Rights Framework

Discrimination laws should align with our human rights framework, meaning that any exceptions should be reasonably justifiable and 
proportional to legitimate outcomes under the Human Rights Act 2004, and other human rights should also be protected.

standard of protection

Everyone should enjoy the same standard of protection

Discrimination laws should be comprehensive and consistent. Everyone should enjoy the same standard of protection, unless there are principled reasons to distinguish between the different protected groups.

Promote systemic preventive change

Promote systemic and preventive change

Discrimination laws should promote systemic and preventive change.

Did you know? In 2018-19 the ACT Human Rights Commission received 166 complaints about discrimination. Almost half of the complaints concerned disability discrimination.

The bigger picture – connecting our community

Discrimination law reform is part of the bigger picture of making Canberra a safe and happy place to live. It complements other important initiatives underway that will enhance our social capital – the bonds that connect our community.

CANBERRA CAPITAL OF EQUALITY

The Government’s Capital of Equality Strategy aims to make sure that Canberra’s LGBTIQ+ community enjoys the equal protection of the law and full respect for their human rights. Consultation on reforming exceptions to discrimination law that have a discriminatory impact on LGBTIQ+ people is part of the First Action Plan for 2019-2021.

Did you know? Around 26% of discrimination complaints in the ACT in 2018-19 were successfully conciliated by the ACT Human Rights Commission. This achieves outcomes for the parties in a quicker, more informal and accessible way than litigation, and promotes better relationships.

PROMOTING WELLBEING IN CANBERRA

The Government has developed a Wellbeing Framework which was released in 2021. This will allow Government decision-making and investment to be measured against well-being indicators which reflect our values and priorities for quality of life. This recognises that Canberra is more than an economy – we are a community where we aim for everyone to share in the benefits of a good life.
Discrimination law reform will promote wellbeing in areas like social connection and safety.

Fact Sheet - Exposure Draft Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022