Service 2: Redress for unlawful discrimination

Handling enquiries

The Commission operates an enquiry service from 9.00am – 4.00pm each weekday. This is staffed by officers of the Commission on a roster basis.

The Commission receives a diverse range of enquiries regarding alleged discrimination. Many enquirers describe situations which do not necessarily constitute unlawful discrimination as defined by the Act, and Commission officers attempt to direct the enquirer t o the correct agency to deal with their issue.

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

Answering enquiries from the community

The Commission received 1,589 enquiries during 2016-17 from people who visited the Commission’s office in person, phoned the enquiries line or sent in a written enquiry by fax, email, via the website or by letter.  The number of enquires received by the Commission has been declining over time.  The current year’s total number of enquiries was 8.9% lower than the 1,745 enquiries received in the 2015-16 financial year.  The decline in the number of enquiries received reflects in part the types of information requested by enquirers being readily available through the Commission’s website and other on-line platforms.

Nearly three-quarters of all enquiries (71.4%) received in 2016-17 were received by telephone.

Of the 391 written enquiries received, nearly 82.7% are now received via the website, email or Facebook.  

Nature of enquiries

Of the enquiries received in 2016-17, 67.3% 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 2016-17.

The areas of discrimination nominated by enquirers in 2016-17 reflected the pattern of previous years.  More than half of the enquiries handled related to employment (50.6%). Enquiries regarding goods, services and facilities were the next largest area (13.8%), followed by education (5.9%).  

In 2016-17 a majority of the enquiries were from individuals (84.8%) and related to allegations of discrimination or unfair treatment.  More than half of all enquiries were made by 865 women (54.4%), while 36.4% of enquiries were from 579 men, and the remainder from organisations, mixed group or were unspecified, including enquiries from:

  • Local, state and federal government (6.4%)
  • Private enterprise (4.5%)
  • Non-government organisations (2.3%).

Most enquirers (79.0%) had their questions answered, and 18.8% were referred to other organisations or agencies:

  • State government agencies (9.7%)
  • Australian Human Rights Commission (3.7%)
  • Non-government organisations (4.9%).


Complaints resolved in record times

The Commission has continued to enhance procedures which work towards reducing the time taken to finalise complaints, without compromising the ability of all participants to be treated fairly and achieve satisfactory outcomes. 

In 2015-16 complaint handlers have met and exceeded agreed performance related complaint handling targets in record times, with 97.5% of complaints resolved in under six months and the few remaining complaints finalised in under one year. This compares to 2012-13 where 89.1% of complaints were resolved in under six months, or 2013-14 where 91.7% were resolved in under six months. The focus on reducing the time taken to finalise complaints was put in place following feedback from some complainants and respondents that finalising complaints in a timely manner can contribute to a mutually agreed resolution of complaints, and allow participants to get on with their lives.

In addition, increased contact with complainants and respondent via e-mail has also helped achieve easier and immediate contact, enabling faster processing of complaints.

Links to further information about enquiries and complaints received:
- About complainants and respondents
- Examples of what enquiries were about
- Examples of what complaints were about
- Complaints referred to the State Administrative Tribunal
- Examples of legal matters


Grounds of discrimination

  • impairment – 362 (22.8%)
  • race – 245 (15.4%)
  • sex – 98 (6.2%)
  • age – 73 (4.6%)
  • sexual harassment – 62 (3.9%)


Areas of discrimination

  • employment – 804 (50.6%)
  • goods, services and facilities – 219 (13.8%)
  • education – 94 (5.9%)
  • accommodation  – 70 (4.45%)   
  • clubs - 24 (1.5%)

Enquiry case examples

Family responsibility discrimination in employment
A woman working for a fast food outlet in Perth said her employer told her she must move to a franchise in a country town if she wanted to keep her job. She said this was not possible because she had a sick husband and children attending school in Perth.

Age discrimination in employment
A 72-year-old woman called because her employer was putting pressure on her to retire.

Religious conviction discrimination in goods and services
A man said his local government council had a recycling facility open only on Saturday, which was discriminatory because his religion prevented him from being active on Saturday.

Sex discrimination in employment
A women’s refuge called to ask if they could place a job advertisement specifying the position was for a female staff member as this was an essential requirement because many clients had recent traumatic experiences with men.

Race discrimination in goods and services
A man said his son was banned from a shop because the attendant had wrongly assumed he had stolen from the store. 


Grounds of discrimination

  • impairment – 102 (23.2%)
  • race – 74 (16.9%)
  • sexual harassment – 54 (12.3%)
  • sex – 33 (7.5%)
  • age – 26 (5.9%)

Areas of discrimination

  • employment – 290 (66.1%)
  • goods, services and facilities – 83 (18.9%)
  • accommodation – 23 (5.2%)
  • education - 21 (4.8%)
  • access to places and vehicles – 18 (4.1%)