Service 2: Avenue of redress for unlawful discrimination

Enquiries and complaints

The Commission operates an enquiry service each weekday staffed by officers of the Commission.  Enquiries and complaints can be lodged anytime by email, Facebook and via the website.

In 2018, due to a reduction in the number of staff, it was necessary to reduce the service marginally by not having a person rostered to take enquiries Tuesdays and Thursdays mornings, with reception taking messages during this period to be returned the same day.

The Commission receives a diverse range of enquiries regarding alleged discrimination. Some enquirers describe situations which do not necessarily constitute unlawful discrimination as defined by the Act, including allegations of unfair dismissal and freedom of information enquiries.  Commission officers attempt to direct the enquirer to the correct agency or organisation to deal with their issue.

Where the situation described seems to fall within the jurisdiction of the Act, the enquirer is informed about the Commission’s complaint handling process or their options under Federal anti-discrimination laws.

Where allegations of unlawful discrimination are accepted by the Commissioner as complaints under the Act, they are delegated to a conciliation officers to investigate and attempts to conciliate complaints on behalf of the Commissioner.

Answering enquiries from the community

The Commission received 1546 enquiries during 2017-18 from people who visited the Commission’s office in person, phoned the enquiries line or sent in a written enquiry electronically or by hardcopy.  The number of enquires received by the Commission has been declining over time, but in the current financial year the number of enquiries was only marginally lower than the 1,589 enquiries received in the 2016-17 financial year. 

Over two thirds of all enquiries (67.1%) received in 2017-18 were received by telephone.

Of the 456 written enquiries received, 85.7% were received via the website or email.  

Nature of enquiries

Of the enquiries received in 2017-18, 68.2% were about matters that fell within the jurisdiction of the Act.  If an enquiry was not within the jurisdiction of the Act, a referral to an appropriate state or federal agency or non-government organisation was provided where possible.

The two most common grounds of discrimination cited by enquirers were impairment and race.  These grounds have consistently been the two grounds with the highest number of enquiries for the past three years.  This also reflected the two most common grounds of discrimination complaints received at the Commission in 2017-18.

The areas of discrimination mentioned by enquirers in 2017-18 reflected the pattern of previous years.  Nearly half of the enquiries handled related to the area of employment (48.1%).  Enquiries regarding goods, services and facilities were the next largest area (14.7%), followed by education (5.2%). 

In 2017-18 a majority of the enquiries were from individuals (79.8%) and related to allegations of discrimination or unfair treatment.  

The next highest number of enquiries were from WA public sector organisations (4.7%), and the remainder from organisations, mixed group or were unspecified, including enquiries from:

  • Private enterprise (4.5%)
  • Non-government organisations (2.7%)
  • Prisoners (1.5%)

Residence of enquirers

Of the enquirers who nominated a place of residence, 37.8% resided in the metropolitan region and 11.7% lived outside the metropolitan region, and the residence of 48.6% was unknown.

Of all the enquirers from non-metropolitan regions a total of 35.8% lived in the South West, Great Southern and Peel regions, which reflected the population distribution in WA with some of the larger towns of Bunbury, Busselton, Albany and Mandurah being in these areas.  In addition, this region has a higher number of advocacy and advisory agencies that provide information about discrimination law.

In 2017-18, 13.3% of non-metropolitan enquiries came from the Goldfields Esperance region, a significant increase from the 7.8% last financial year, and 12.7 % from the Kimberley region, which was a significant increase from 5.9%. These increases may have been influenced by the Commission’s outreach program and networking in this region in the past financial year.  


Top five grounds of discrimination

  • Impairment – 310 (20.1%)
  • Race – 226 (14.6%)
  • Age – 90 (5.8%)
  • Sex – 77 (5.0%)
  • Sexual harassment – 73 (4.7%)

Top five areas of discrimination

  • Work – 743 (48.1%)
  • Goods, services and facilities – 228 (14.7%)
  • Education – 81 (5.2%)
  • Accommodation – 70 (4.5%)
  • Access to places and vehicles – 34 (2.2%)

Enquiry case studies

Age in access to places and vehicles
A parent wanted to know if a local supermarkets policy of banning school aged children from store during school hours was discriminatory.

Impairment in access to places and vehicles
A dog trainer enquired on behalf of hospitalised client who had an assistance dog, if it was lawful for a hospital to refuse allow his clients assistance dog into the hospital. The enquirer was advised the Act only covered sight and hearing dogs but offered to send information on disability advocates.

Race in goods, services and facilities
A woman called to say her African husband was constantly asked to pre-pay at petrol stations. She claimed this had just occurred in the early afternoon and asked if this was enough evidence to lodge a complaint of race discrimination. She was advised it would be best to provide a comparator at the same station and same pump. She advised she would go to the station at the same time as her husband had and to the same pump to find out if she was required to pre-pay.

Pregnancy in education
A student nurse said she was not allowed to enrol in a second semester of her course as she is pregnant. She said her doctor could provide a medical certificate that she is well enough to participate in the course and could complete her second practicum after the birth of her baby. She agreed to take her supporting medical documents to the education provider to see if their decision could be reversed.

Sexual harassment in employment
A man called on behalf of several CALD women who worked for a fish retailer. He said they were being sexually harassed by a supervisor, who touched them inappropriately and sexually propositioned them. He was advised a complaint could only be lodged by one or more of the women, and that they could seek support from a migrant resource or community legal centre.

Religious Conviction in employment
A woman of Iranian descent said she was constantly being asked by colleagues whether she is a Muslim. She wanted to know if this was a type of discrimination.

Spent Conviction in employment
An electorate officer called regarding a constituent who was having his employment terminated because he had a criminal conviction. The officer was advised the Commission could only assist the constituent if the conviction had been ‘spent’. It was suggested the officer contact the Human Rights Commission.


Regional enquiries received 2017-18

WA Regional Map Enquiries