About complainants and respondents

Characteristics of complainants


In 2018-19 a marginally higher number of women lodged complaints (51.8%) compared to men (47.6%). This is consistent with previous years. Two grounds are usually gender specific, these being pregnancy and breastfeeding, and in the current financial year 12 complaints were lodged on these grounds. Whilst the total number of complaints lodged is relatively even between men and women, there are gender variations with some grounds.

For instance, of the 61 sexual harassment complaints lodged this financial year, 46 were lodged by women (75.4%) and 15 by men (24.6%). Of the 27 family responsibility complaints, 19 were lodged by women (70.4%) and 8 by men (29.6%).

The only ground on which a significantly higher proportion of complaints were lodged by men was on the ground of impairment, where men lodged 67 (62.6%) of the 107 complaints, and women lodged 39 (36.4%). But with most other grounds of unlawful discrimination, such as race, sex and age, the numbers of male and female complainants were fairly even.


As with past years most complaints were lodged by people born in Australia (59.2%). This includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who lodged 12.8% of all complaints.

Thirty-six per cent of complaints (171 people) were lodged by people born outside Australia, which is slightly above the proportion of the Western Australian overseas born population (33.3%) according to the 2016 Census.

Of the 171 complainants born overseas the highest number were born in the following countries: UK (23), France (13), New Zealand (11), Malaysia (11) and India (11).

With regard to geographical regions of those born outside Australia, the complainants came from Europe, including the British Isles (41.5%), Asia (31.0%), Africa and the Middle East (19.3 %), and Oceania (7.6%).


Fifty complainants (10.5%), said they preferred to communicate in a language other than English. The languages nominated by complainants were Arabic (12%), Burmese (10%), and 8% from each of the following four language groups - Chinese (primarily Mandarin), Farsi, Malayalam and Tamil.

While no Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander complainants stated they spoke a language other than English, some speak Aboriginal English, and in some instances one or more Aboriginal languages.

Accredited interpreters were used as required in meetings and conferences and accredited translators were engaged when complaint statements and other documents were submitted in languages other than English or needed to be translated into a complainant’s preferred language.

Work status

Of the 310 complaints in the area of employment in the public and private sector, the highest number of complainants listed their work status as being ‘full time employment’ 118 complainants (38.1%). The number of complainants who listed their status as unemployed increased in the current reporting period was 60 (19.4%).

The increased number of unemployed complainants may be attributable to the increased pressure placed on Newstart and other Centrelink recipients to find work, and then encountering employers who may have discriminated unlawfully.


There were some differences on grounds of discrimination lodged according to age. The highest grounds of discrimination lodged by each age group were:

  • 0-17 years – 40.0% alleged race discrimination
  • 18-24 years – 31.0% alleged sexual harassment in the area of employment
  • 25-34 years – 23.4% alleged age, followed by breastfeeding (15.9%) and family responsibility (15.0%)
  • 35-44-years – 25.2% lodged complaints on the ground of impairment, 22.6% lodged on the ground of race
  • 45-54 years – 30.0% alleged impairment, followed by race (22.2%)
  • 55-64 years – 39.6% alleged impairment, followed by age (15.1%)
  • 65-74 years – 45.5% alleged impairment.
  • 75+ years – 50.0% alleged age, and 25.5% on the ground of race.

Complainants with impairments

This year 28% of complainants stated that they have a disability.

The Act defines impairments to include anyone with a physical, intellectual or mental impairment, a person who has had an impairment in the past, or someone assumed (imputed) to have an impairment. The Act also covers short term and chronic medical conditions and injuries.

Over 22% of complaints lodged with the Commission were on the ground of impairment, of which 56.1% were in the area of employment and 24.3% in the area of the provision of goods services and facilities.

Of these complaints 48.6% related to a physical impairment, 37.4% to a mental health/psychosocial condition, 6.5% to an intellectual impairment, and 1.9% imputed, vision, hearing and other impairments.

Residence of complainants

Over 73% of complainants lived in the metropolitan area, a moderate reduction on the past two years, 80.5% (2017-18) and 76% (2016-17).

Of the 91 complaints lodged by people living outside the metropolitan areas, the largest percentage lived in Peel (24.2%), the Wheatbelt (17.6%), Pilbara (14.3%), and the South West (12.1%).

There was a significant decrease in complaints from the Goldfields-Esperance region from 25.3% last financial year to 8.8% this year. The reason for this reduction of complaints from the Goldfields was due to a number of complaints lodged by groups of people against the same respondent in the previous year.

The overall consistent number of complaints lodged by people outside the metropolitan area is a positive outcome given the Commission office is Perth based, and the organisation has limited resources to conduct outreach programs in regional and remote WA.

Characteristics of respondents

As with the past two years, the industry group against which the highest number of complaints has been lodged was Health Care and Social Assistance at 15.4%, which encompasses a broad range of government, private sector and community sector organisations.  In the current financial year this was followed by the Accommodation and Food Services sector with 10.9% of complaints.

Other respondent groups included:

  • Retail trade (9.5%)
  • Public administration and safety (7.2%)
  • Rental hiring and real estate services (5.3%).

More than half of all complaints were lodged against private sector employers and service providers (58.9%), ranging from large ASX listed corporations to single person small businesses. There has been a 17.1% increase in complaints against private sector employers.

Complaints against public sector employers and service providers, including state government departments and local government, comprised 28.8% of all complaints, down from 37.5% in the previous financial year, a reduction of 22.5%.

A smaller number of complaints were lodged against non-government organisations (8.3%) and clubs (2.7%).


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