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History of equal opportunity in South Australia

Founded in 1836, South Australia has a history of freedom and tolerance. The state led the nation with its anti-discrimination laws.

In the mid 1960s, race was the first kind of discrimination to become illegal. This happened at around the same time as human rights conventions were adopted by the United Nations.

These new laws promoted equality of opportunity in South Australia, prevented discrimination, discouraged prejudice, and allowed people to participate in our economic and social life.

Below is a brief timeline of anti-discrimination laws in the state, showing when and how they have changed.

1966 Prohibition of Discrimination Act

  • protected people against race discrimination, including skin colour and country of origin, in providing food, drink, services or accommodation, terminating employment and controlling land.

1975 Sex Discrimination Act

  • protected people against sex or marital status discrimination, including de facto relationships, in employment, education, providing goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, and granting qualifications.
  • protected people against being victimised for complaining about discrimination
  • prohibited discriminatory advertisements
  • allowed the Equal Opportunity Commissioner to investigate and conciliate complaints
  • allowed the Sex Discrimination Board to hear complaints and award compensation, order the discrimination to stop, and make loss or damages orders.

1976 Racial Discrimination Act

  • protected people against race discrimination
  • required a court to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that a defendant had discriminated and, on the balance of probabilities, it was because of race.

1981 Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act

  • protected people against physical disability discrimination in employment, education, customer service, accommodation, clubs and associations, and granting qualifications
  • made it unlawful to victimise a person who complained about discrimination
  • prohibited discriminatory advertisements
  • established the Handicapped Persons Discrimination Tribunal which could award compensation, order the discrimination to stop, and make other loss or damages orders.

1984 Equal Opportunity Act

  • consolidated the Sex Discrimination Act, the Racial Discrimination Act and the Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act
  • protected people against discrimination due to sex, race, physical impairment, sexuality, marital status or pregnancy, in employment, education, goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, granting qualifications, advertising and selling land
  • made victimisation a ground for complaint
  • protected people against sexual harassment
  • established the Equal Opportunity Tribunal which could award compensation, order the discrimination to stop, and make other loss or damages orders.

1989 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act - Intellectual Disability

  • protected people against intellectual impairment discrimination
  • protected people against sexuality discrimination in trade unions and employer groups.

1990 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act - Age

  • protected people against age discrimination.

1993 Compulsory Retirement Abolished

  • prohibited retiring people at a certain age.

1997 Equal Opportunity Amendment Act - Sexual Harassment

  • protected people against sexual harassment by judicial officers, members of Parliament, Councillors and Council employees.

2009 Equal Opportunity (Miscellaneous) Amendment Act - New grounds

Extended to protect

  • people caring for a dependent child or a family member
  • parents when accompanied by their children
  • people with a mental illness or an infection without symptoms
  • domestic partners
  • people treated unfairly because of their spouse or partner
  • contract workers
  • people who wear dress or adornments symbolic of their religion
  • people who have been sexually harassed.

Also:

  • All secondary schools must have policies to prevent and deal with sexual harassment.
  • Clubs, associations, small partnerships, church-run hospitals, aged-care homes and welfare agencies must not discriminate because of a person’s sexuality.
  • The time limit for lodging a complaint is increased from six months to twelve months.
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