Australian Federal Law

Racial Discrimination

Australian federal laws apply to everyone in Australia. In regards to racial discrimination, the most relevant federal act is the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. This act makes it unlawful for a person to deny someone (or limit the access to) a right enjoyed by everyone else because of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin in any field of public life, especially in matters relating to: access to places and facilities; land, housing and other accommodation; provision of goods and services; right to join trade unions; and employment. The Act further makes it unlawful for a person to incite the doing of an unlawful discriminatory action.

It is important to note, however, that unlawful acts do not necessarily mean criminal offences. While the discriminatory actions mentioned in the Racial Discrimination Act are unlawful and entitle targets to seek redress, not all of them constitute a criminal offence. What the Act does consider a criminal offence is for a person to refuse to employ, dismiss from employment or in any way threaten or prejudice a person in his or her work environment because that person has made or intends to make a complaint related to racial discrimination to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHCR) or in any other way contributed to the work of this Commission on matters relating to racial discrimination.

In addition to the Act, the Criminal Code Act 1995 criminalises the act of urging a person or group to use force against a specific racial, religious, national or ethnic group or the members thereof (Chapter 5, Subdivision C, 80.2A and 80.2B).

Discrimination on other grounds

If someone experiences discrimination on multiple grounds (e.g. race and gender based discrimination simultaneously), there are other acts that can provide protection. In Australia, the following federal acts offer protection against discrimination based on age, disability and gender and sexual orientation.


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