The state parliaments have the power to legislate on any matter, including matters that are regulated by federal acts, as long as the state law is not inconsistent with the federal act dealing with the same issue. Australian territories have similar powers to enact laws under their self-governing powers. Therefore, despite the federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA), all states and territories have enacted anti-discrimination acts, which are applicable to their own state or territory. These acts usually cover discrimination based on several grounds and not only racial discrimination. Although federal and state or territory law mostly cover the same areas of discrimination, there are some differences between them. For example, all state or territory anti-discrimination acts address discrimination in education, an area that is not covered in the federal RDA.
Much like the RDA, most state or territory acts consider a great deal of discriminatory acts unlawful and give targets the right to seek redress, but prescribe very few criminal offences. As mentioned above, state and territories can legislate on all matters, including those dealt with in the federal sphere. This means that besides having to respect the federal Criminal Code Act 1995, states and territories also have their own criminal codes, which may include offences not covered by the Criminal Code Act. Therefore, state or territory anti-discrimination acts can prescribe criminal offences that do not exist federally and will only apply in the state or territory concerned.
The state or territory acts on discrimination are:
- Australian Capital Territory – Discrimination Act 1991
- New South Wales – Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
- Northern Territory – Anti-Discrimination Act 1996
- Queensland – Anti-Discrimination Act 1991
- South Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984
- Tasmania – Anti-Discrimination Act 1998
- Victoria – Equal Opportunity Act 2010
- Western Australia – Equal Opportunity Act 1984