Australia's Commonwealth laws protect people against discrimination based upon:
- Age - Age Discrimination Act 2004
- Sex - Sex Discrimination Act 1984
- Race - Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Disability - Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- Religion, Legal, Civil & Political Rights - Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986
These laws identify specific areas of community life and try to minimise discrimination in these areas. For example,
- provision of goods and services
- administration of Commonwealth laws and programs
Discrimination is treating someone differently because of a characteristic about that person over which they have little or no control.
For example, when someone was born (nationality), when (age) and to whom (race) which determines their genetic and physical characterisitcs such as skin colour (e.g. albino), dexterity (left-right handedness), sex organs (female, male, both male and female), sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual etc), genetic or in-utero illnesses, abilities and disabilities (e.g. intelligence, mental retardation, spina bifida) etc. which affect health. Where and to whom a person is born, also determines their language, gender idenity, culture and religion which extremely difficult to change. Associated with this can also be access to marriage, education and employment/ wealth.
Some characteristics may be the result of disease or injury caused by accidents, environmental factors such as pollution, medical intervention and so on.
The result of treating some people better because of certain characteristics is usually not noticed by those people, and therefore they may not appreciate the hurt, frustration and disadvantage to which others are exposed.
Those who are treated worse do suffer the consequences of not receiving the same respect or fariness as others and often are denied access to, or do not receive the same quality of service in employment, education, health services, accommodation, other community facilities, justice and other aspects of community life that are taken for granted by those who are treated well.
Treating people equally is a principle to which civilised cultures aspire.
Many countries have developed laws that are aimed at protecting people from discrimination, but also act to educate a community about acceptable standards of behaviour.
Australia has lead the world in many areas of anti-discrimination law, but not all forms of discrimination are addressed by Australia law.
For a full breakdown of Commonwealth laws see:
Australian States and Territories have also development specific anti-discrimination laws for their jurisdictions. For a summary of these see: