Where do I complain?

South Australian vs. Commonwealth Law


Whether you complain to the South Australian Equal Opportunity Commission or the Commonwealth 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 Commonwealth laws, and complaints may be lodged with either the state or Commonwealth body, but not both.

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

  • There may be differences in time limits for lodging complaints.
  • The Australian Human Rights Commission does not have offices in South Australia. The 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 Civil and Administrative Tribunal. This is not the case in the Commonwealth system.
  • In cases of indirect discrimination under South Australian law, the person complaining has to show that a certain discriminatory requirement was unreasonable. Under Commonwealth law the reverse applies and the person complained about has to show that the requirement was reasonable.
       Type of discrimination
       Covered by South Australian laws?
       Covered by Commonwealth laws?


       Race    Yes    Yes
       Age    Yes     Yes
       Disability    Yes    Yes
       Mental illness    Yes    Yes 
       Sexual Orientation    Yes    Yes    *
       Sex    Yes    Yes
       Gender Identity    Yes    Yes   
       Intersex Status    Yes    Yes
       Pregnancy    Yes     Yes 
       Marital Status    Yes     Yes
       Sexual harassment    Yes     Yes 
       Victimisation    Yes    No
       Religion    No    Yes
       Religious dress    Yes     Yes
       Political opinion    No    Yes
       Medical record    Yes    **    Yes
       Criminal record    No    Yes 
       Trade union activity    No    Yes 
       Learning disorder    Yes    Yes
       Caring responsibilities    Yes     Yes
       Identity of spouse or partner    Yes    Yes
       Association with a child    Yes    No


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

              **  Medical Record - If it relates to a past or presumed disability.