Recent changes to federal discrimination powers and complaint processes

In December 2022, changes were made to how the Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) can handle complaints and tackle discrimination, and to how discrimination claims can be run in the federal courts.

The changes to the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) (AHRC Act) implement recommendations of the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report. They apply to discrimination claims under all four federal discrimination acts: Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth).

The key changes are:

  1. A longer period (24 months) to make age discrimination, race discrimination and disability discrimination complaints. This is consistent with the timeframe for making complaints based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status;
  2. A new power for the Commission to inquire into patterns of discrimination (‘systemic unlawful discrimination’);
  3. Giving representative bodies ‘standing’, so they can pursue discrimination complaints in the federal courts on behalf of groups of people they represent; and
  4. Improving protection from ‘victimisation’, to prevent unfair treatment of people involved in making a complaint of discrimination.

PIAC’s information sheet Recent changes to federal discrimination powers and complaint processes gives more information about the changes and what they mean for people who have experienced discrimination.

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