Australian Human Rights Commission

National Human Rights Institution

Overview

Accreditation status: A

The Australian Human Rights Commission (formerly called the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissio) has the responsibility to promote and protect human rights in Australia, including education and public awareness, discrimination, human right compliance, policy and legislative development. The Commission does this through:

  • resolving complaints of discrimination or breaches of human rights under federal laws
  • holding public inquiries into human rights issues of national importance
  • developing human rights education programs and resources for schools, workplaces and the community
  • providing independent legal advice to assist courts in cases that involve human rights principles
  • providing advice and submissions to parliaments and governments to develop laws, policies and programs
  • undertaking and coordinating research into human rights and discrimination issues

The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 established the Commission giving functions in relation to several international instruments. The Australian Human Rights Commission has statutory responsibility under a number of laws that the Australian Parliament has passed in the past years to protect people from certain kinds of discrimination in public life and from breaches of their human rights. Under these laws, the Commission has the right to investigate and conciliate complaints of alleged discrimination and human rights breaches.

Who can access it? 

Individuals across Australia with complaints regarding:

  • discrimination in employment based on religion, criminal record, trade union activity, sexual preference, political opinion and social origin;
  • breaches of human rights by the Commonwealth or one of its agencies; and
  • sex, race, disability and age discrimination.

Complaints can be lodged on behalf of another person. This person will need to provide authorization for the one acting on their behalf, by completing the Authority to Act form, which should be submitted together with the complaint form. 

How does it work?

Complaints must be in writing. Complaints can be submitted by filling out the online complaint form or by downloading complaint forms from the website and submitting it: 

  • by post
  • by fax to 0292849611
  • by email

If the complaint is being filed by a person on behalf of the complainant, the complaints form has to be accompanied by the Authority to Act form.

The Commission can also send to the complainant a hard copy of the complaint form upon their request, or provide assistance by calling the Complaint Infoline on 1300 656 419. Complainant can also contact the Commission via the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 or www.tisnational.gov.au and the National Relay Service 1300 555 727 (Speak and Listen) or www.relayservice.gov.au.

Once the claim is accepted as a complaint, the Commission’s Investigation & Conciliation Service will contact the complainant to discuss how to proceed.

Conciliation

Complaints are resolved through conciliation, an informal process that involves a neutral (conciliator) who helps both sides discuss and negotiate an outcome. Conciliation can take place in a face-to-face meeting or through a telephone conference. In some cases, complaints can be resolved through an exchange of letters or by passing messages through the conciliator.

Outcome 

Outcomes can include an apology, reinstatement to a job, compensation for lost wages, changes to a policy or developing and promoting antidiscrimination polices.

Appeal

If a complaint is unresolved

In case of complaints involving discrimination on the basis of sex, race, disability and age

The Commission does not have the power to decide if unlawful discrimination happened. If your complaint is not resolved or is discontinued for some other reason, the complainant may make an application to the Federal Court of Australia or the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, within 60 days of the date of termination. The Commission cannot take the matter to court for the complainant or help present the case.

In case of complaints involving discrimination in employment or human rights breaches by the Commonwealth

The President of the Commission has the power to decide if a breach of human rights, or discrimination in employment has taken place, if the complaint is not resolved or if the complaint is discontinued. If the President is satisfied a breach has occurred, the President will report the matter to the federal Attorney-General. In the report, the President can recommend compensation for loss or injury a person has experienced.

References 

Homepage of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Complaints page of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986.  

List of laws under which the Commission has statutory responsibility.

Last edited: 
April, 2013

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