Race discrimination

Discrimination is treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. This includes bullying someone because of a protected characteristic.

In Victoria it is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of your race, or what race they assume you are. Race discrimination is one of the most common types of discrimination reported to the Commission.

Race includes colour, descent or ancestry, nationality or ethnic background, or any characteristics associated with a particular race. Indigenous rights are also protected under anti-discrimination laws.

Examples of race discrimination

George unsuccessfully applies for a position with a construction company. When he telephones the company’s personnel manager to ask why he did not get the position, George is told: ‘We’ve employed people from your country before. You lot simply don’t share our work ethic’.

Deb and Max are Aboriginal Victorians. When they telephone a local kindergarten to see if there are any places for their son, Henry, they are told that there is plenty of room. But when Deb takes Henry to the kindergarten, the teacher tells her that she didn't realise Henry was Aboriginal and that Deb should take him to a place where he’ll fit in better.

Racial and religious vilification

The Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 makes it against the law to vilify a person or group of people because of their race or religion. 

Vilification is behaviour that incites or encourages hatred of, serious contempt for, revulsion or severe ridicule of another person or group of people because of their race or religion.

Find out more about racial and religious vilification.

Where can discrimination occur?

Discrimination is against the law when it occurs in an area of public life such as clubs, schools and shops, or in the workplace.

Find out more about general places of discrimination or learn more specifically about race discrimination in employment

Are there any exceptions to the law?

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 includes some exceptions, which mean that discrimination will not be against the law in particular circumstances.

Positive steps can also be taken to help disadvantaged groups using special measures, which is not discrimination under the law.

If an exception or special measure does not apply, in some circumstances an exemption from the Act may be sought from the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

In addition, discrimination that favours a particular race may be permitted if it is done to better meet the specific needs of people belonging to that race, such as welfare services targeted at a particular group. For example, a health service for Aboriginal Victorians may employ Aboriginal staff members in particular roles.

It is also lawful to offer employment to a person of a particular race if there is a need to maintain authenticity or credibility in dramatic, artistic, entertainment, photographic or modelling performance, or similar work.

An educational authority may operate a school or program for students of a particular sex, race or religion. Students who are not of that race, sex or religion may not be eligible for admission to the institution or program.

Make a complaint to the Commission

If you think you have beendiscriminated againstsexually harassedvictimised or vilified, contact us and talk about your concerns. Our dispute resolution service is free and confidential. We can send you information about the complaint process and if we can’t help you we will try to refer you to someone who can.

To make a complaint:

Find out more about making a complaint.

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