Racial Discrimination Act 1975

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The Racial Discrimination Act 2015 (RDA) is a statute passed by the Australian Parliament during the Prime Ministership of Gough Whitlam.[1]

The RDA makes racial discrimination unlawful in Australia and overrides inconsistent States and Territory legislation, making the State or Territory law ineffective to the extent of the inconsistency. The power of the national Parliament to pass this over-riding law arises under the "external affairs" power contained in section 51(xxix) of the Australian Constitution. The power arose from the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination which Australia ratified in September 1975. This use of the power in this manner was confirmed in the landmark High Court decision in Koowarta v. Bjelke-Petersen in 1982 and maintained in Mabo v Queensland (No 1). [2]

Definition of racial discrimination under the Act[edit]

Racial discrimination occurs under the RDA when someone is treated less fairly than someone else in a similar situation because of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. Racial discrimination can also occur when a policy or rule appears to treat everyone in the same way but actually has an unfair effect on more people of a particular race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin than others.

It is against the law to discriminate in areas such as:

  • Employment (section 15) - e.g. when seeking employment, training, promotion, equal pay or conditions of employment;
  • Land, housing or accommodation (section 12) - e.g. when buying a house or when renting;
  • Provision of goods and services (section 13) - e.g. when buying something, applying for credit, using banks, seeking assistance from government departments, lawyers, doctors and hospitals, or attending restaurants, pubs, entertainment venues;
  • Access to places and facilities for use by the public (section 11) - e.g. when trying to use parks, libraries, government offices, hotels, places of worship, entertainment centres, hire cars;
  • Advertising (section 16) - e.g. advertising for a job stating that people from a certain ethnic group cannot apply;
  • Joining a trade union (section 14).
  • Certain offensive behaviour will also be found discriminatory if it is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people of a certain race, colour or national or ethnic origin (section 18 B-F) [3][4]
  • Section 18D of the RDA outlines the exemptions to s18C. However, the courts have previously established in Bropho v Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission (2004) 135 FCR 105 that they "will not use freedoms as a cover to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people by reason of their colour or ethnic or national origin. [5]

Australian Human Rights Commission[edit]

The Racial Discrimination Act is administered by the Australian Human Rights Commission ("AHRC"), the Australian human rights and equal opportunities watchdog, with an Australian Human Rights Commissioner responsible for investigating complaints.

The Commission also attempts to raise awareness about the obligations that individuals and organisations have under the Act.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]