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Where do I complain - state or federal?

Whether you complain to the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission or the federal Australian Human Rights Commission depends mostly on the type of discrimination.

Some types of discrimination - such as social origin or political opinion - are only dealt with by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Other types of discrimination are covered by both South Australian and federal laws, and complaints may be lodged with either the state or federal body, but not both.

There are some differences between the state and federal jurisdictions that may help you decide where to lodge a complaint.

  • There may be differences in time limits for lodging complaints. Contact us for more information.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission does not have offices in South Australia. Head office is in Sydney, but officers travel interstate when required.
  • In some cases, the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity can arrange and pay for a party's lawyer if a complaint cannot be resolved and is referred to the South Australian Employment Tribunal. This is not the case in the Federal system.
  • In cases of indirect discrimination under South Australian law the person complaining has to show that a certain discriminatory requirement was unreasonable. Under federal law the reverse applies and the person complained about has to show that the requirement was reasonable.

South Australian vs. Federal Law

Type of discrimination Covered by South Australian laws? Covered by federal laws?
Mental illness
Sexuality *
Marital Status
Sexual harassment
Victimisation X
Religion X
Political opinion X
Medical record **
Criminal record X
Trade union activity X
Learning disorder
Religious dress
Caring responsibilities
Identity of spouse or partner X
Association with a child X

*  Discrimination at work based on sexual preference is covered by the Fair Work Act s. 351.

**  If it relates to a past or presumed disability.

Related information

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