About complainants and respondents

Characteristics of complainants


In 2017-18 due to an increase in sexual harassment and pregnancy lodged by women, the gender difference in lodged complaints was higher than in previous year, with 280 (59.3%) complaints lodged by women, and 186 (39.4%) by men. 


As with past years most complaints were lodged by people born in Australia (61.9%). This year Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lodged 20.6% of all complainants, a significant increase on the previous year of 11.4%. The increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander complaints has corresponded with an increase in outreach work conducted in some of the regions with the highest Aboriginal populations such as the East and West Kimberley and the Goldfields. 

Thirty three per cent of complaints (157 people) stated they were born outside Australia, which was comparable to the proportion of the Western Australian overseas born population (33.3% 2016 Census).

Of the 157 complainants born overseas the highest proportion were born in the British Isles (31.5%), Italy (10.8%), India (5.7%) and Singapore (5.7%).

In broad regional terms the highest number of overseas born complaints were born in Europe (includes British Isles) (41.4%), Asia (31.2%), Africa and the Middle East (21.7%) with fewer from Oceania (5.1%) and the Americas (0.6%).


Forty complainants (8.5%), said the preferred to communicate in a language other than English. In this group of non-English speakers, 11 complainants (27%) submitted their complaint in a community language, and required the use of an interpreter and/or translator organised by the Commission.

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

Work status

Complainants are asked about their work status. The largest number (36.9%) were in paid employment while 24.6% were looking for work.  People who identified as pensioners comprised 9.7% of complainants and students comprised 12.9%.


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

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 26.5% of complaints lodged with the Commission were on the ground of an impairment, of which 37.6% were in the area of employment and 32.8% in the area of goods services and facilities.

Of these complaints 40.8% related to a physical impairment, 39.2% to a mental health/psychosocial condition, 6.4% to an intellectual impairment, 4.8% had an imputed impairment, and smaller numbers to vision, hearing or other impairments.

Residence of complainants

Eighty per cent of complainants lived in the metropolitan area which is similar to the past two years – 76.0% (2016-17) and 77.2% (2015-16).

The proportion of complainants living in the metropolitan region is proportionate to the State’s population living in the metropolitan region (78.0%).  This is a positive outcome given that the Commission is Perth based and has limited resources to conduct outreach programs in regional and remote parts of the state.

Of regional complainants, the largest number lived in the Goldfields–Esperance region (25.3%) Peel (18.1%) and the South West (13.3%). There was a significant decrease in complaints from the Pilbara region from 13.6% last financial year to 6.0% this year.

It should be noted the increased number of complaints in the Goldfields–Esperance region, from zero complaints in the previous year to 25.3% of regional complaints in 2017-18, was skewed by a cluster of complaints about a single incident against one business

Characteristics of respondents

As with the past two years, the industry group that had the highest number of complaints lodged was Health Care and Social Assistance at 16.7%, followed by Rental Hiring and Real Estate Services with 10.4% of complaints.

Other respondent groups with higher numbers of complaints included:

  • Retail Trade (10.2%)
  • Arts & Recreation Services (9.3%)
  • Accommodation & Food Services (8.7%).

More than half of all complaints were lodged against private sector employers and service providers (50.6%), while 37.5% were lodged against public sector employers and service providers. A smaller number of complaints were lodged against non-government organisations (9.5%) and clubs (1.7%).

Birthplace of complainant

Graph birthplace of complainant

Complainants born outside Australia

Graph complainants born outside Australia

Age of complainant

Graph age of complainant

Impairment complaints - types of impairments

Graph types of impairment

Regional complaints received 2017-18

WA Regional Map Complaints