Racial Discrimination Act 1975

The Racial Discrimination Act was the first discrimination law enacted by the Commonwealth. Based on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin (or that of a relation or associate). It also prohibits offensive behaviour in public based on racial hatred. Racial hatred refers to an act done because of the race, colour, national or ethnic origin of a person or group of people which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate.

The Act covers discrimination in employment, education, access to places and facilities, land, housing and other accommodation, the provision of goods and services and the right to join trade unions.

While the Act prohibits discrimination, it also recognises that for social and historical reasons it is sometimes necessary to provide benefits to a particular group or minority in order to overcome the effects of past discrimination and support social participation on an equal footing with the rest of the community. In this context, the Act provides for positive discrimination in the form of ‘special measures’. These are temporary programmes designed to secure the advancement of a racial or ethnic group so that they can enjoy and exercise their human rights equally with others.

Racial Discrimination Act 1975

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