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 Racial Discrimination Act 1975 amendments explained

Acting Commissioner Allanah Lucas

The Federal government has proposed changes to the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA). The government is calling for public submissions on the proposed changes. Below is an explanation on how this Act works in Western Australia. Acting Commissioner Allanah Lucas (pictured left) provides the following explanation.


Section 18C of the RDA makes it unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people, because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origin, often referred to as ‘racial vilification’.

If a person or group believes they have been treated in this way, they can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which is the Commonwealth agency that administers the RDA. However, certain kinds of conduct are not unlawful under the RDA -  artistic works, academic, scientific, artistic or other debate in the public interest, fair reporting,  and genuine comment.


Western Australia

There is no equivalent of section 18C in the WA Equal Opportunity Act. Therefore, a person in WA who believes they have been racially vilified in public can lodge a complaint under the RDA with the AHRC but not with the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Alternatively, if intimidation or threats of violence are involved, it is potentially a criminal offence and such incidents can be reported to the police.  

The Federal Government has recently introduced a bill to amend section 18C, so as to increase the level of severity required before racial vilification is found to be unlawful. Until such time as the bill becomes law, the existing wording of section 18C applies.


For more information see Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs address to the National Press Club. Gillian Triggs at the National Press Club

To make a submission see the following guide provided by the Human Rights Law Centre Guide to making a submission

EOC e-bulletin: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or Harmony Day

Events that call attention to this day celebrate harmony and promote greater respect and trust among different groups in our communities. This day also commemorates lives that have been lost in the fight for democracy and equal human rights.

Also featured International Women's Day Equal Opportunity Commission event. Pictured from left speakers Allanah Lucas, Tonya McCusker, Joan Peters and Erica Smyth. Read the e-bulletin

EOC Aboriginal calendar 2014 Kimberley landscape features on calendar

The Equal Opportunity Commission Aboriginal calendar is still available. You can order copies of the calendar here.






Aboriginal flag

The Equal Opportunity Commission respectfully acknowledges the past and present traditional owners of Western Australia and pays respects to the traditional custodians of this land.

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