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Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission was established in 1986 by the Federal Government. It is an independent organisation that works to protect and promote the basic human rights and freedoms that all humans are entitled to.

Some human rights have been agreed upon by people from around the world such as; rights to life, a fair trial, health, education, an adequate standard of living, freedom from torture, free speech and freedom of religion. These human rights ensure that we are able to live free from fear, harassment or discrimination.

Some human rights are laid down in the law and some are moral rights which are based on people’s sense of what is moral, fair or just.

Human Rights and equal opportunity at work

In Australia there are a number of basic rights that are laid down in Federal Laws. These laws can be used to ensure individual rights are upheld in the work place and equal opportunity granted. They include:

  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986.

These federal laws mean that all employees must get a fair go regardless of:

• sex, including pregnancy, marital status, family responsibilities and sexual harassment

• disability, including temporary and permanent disabilities; physical, intellectual, sensory, psychiatric disabilities, diseases or illnesses; medical conditions; work related injuries; past, present and future disabilities; and association with a person with a disability

• race, including colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, immigrant status and racial hatred

• age, covering young people and older people

• sexual preference, trade union activity, political opinion, religion, criminal record, or social origin

How can the Australian Human Rights Commission help you?

An employer cannot refuse you a job or promotion or dismiss you on the grounds of; age, religion, gender, ethnicity, criminal record, sexual preference, marital status or pregnancy, union affiliation, political opinion, disability or any other central characteristic.

If they do, it may constitute discrimination and a violation of human rights. You can contact the Australian Human Rights Commission who can investigate the complaint and if necessary take the dispute to conciliation.

Conciliation is where the parties involved are helped by an impartial, independent party to discuss and work through the problem and come to an agreement on their own terms. Conciliation is usually an accessible legal avenue for the average person.

A Case Study to think about

Aalia is a devout Muslim she wears a hijab and works happily in a local department store. A new manager is appointed who makes inappropriate comments about Aalia’s hijab. Aalia hears her talking to her co-workers about the “Muslim girl and her ugly scarf”. Aalia feels pressured not to wear her hijab and compromised because of her religion, she becomes withdrawn in her job. Aalia is told to lift her game or she will be fired. Aalia feels pressured and resigns from her job.

What can Aalia do?

Aalia can make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission. They will investigate the case and establish how Aalia has been discriminated against because of her religion. The case may be taken to conciliation where an agreement could be reached that may include compensation. This law is set up under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986

For even more information and case studies, head to the Australian Human Rights Commission website [1].