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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.

The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 Victoria's anti discrimination law protects people from discrimination and harassment in areas of public life such as workplaces, schools, clubs, shops or places that provide services.

Types of discrimination

You can be discriminated against directly or indirectly. In Victoria it is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of a personal characteristic that you have, or someone assumes that you have. These personal characteristics are things like age, race, disability, physical features and political beliefs.

Find out more about the different types of discrimination

It is also against the law to sexually harass or victimise someone, or to vilify someone because of their race or religion.

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination happens when someone is treated unfavourably because of a personal characteristic protected by the law. Direct discrimination often happens because people make unfair assumptions about what people with certain personal characteristics can and cannot do.

For example, George applies for a position with a construction company but doesn’t get the job. When he calls the company’s human resources manager to ask why he wasn’t chosen, she tells George: “We’ve employed people from your country before. You lot don’t share our work ethic.”

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs when an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice is imposed that disadvantages a person or group because of a personal characteristic.

Discriminatory behaviours and actions that affect a person or group with certain personal characteristics can become entrenched in an organisation or community. These behaviours often become part of organisation’s culture and are reinforced by policies or procedures. If an organisation has a lot of complaints about the same or similar issues, it might be because of entrenched discrimination, also known as systemic discrimination.

For example, a factory makes all employees start at 6am. This might seem to treat everyone equally, but it could disadvantage employees needing to care for children, who are usually women. If it is not a reasonable requirement, this will be indirect discrimination.


Victimisation is subjecting, or threatening to subject, someone to something detrimental because they have asserted their rights under equal opportunity law, made a complaint, helped someone else to make a complaint, or refused to do something because it would be discrimination, sexual harassment or victimisation.

For example, Donna’s boss fires her after she complains that a colleague is sexually harassing her.

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 public places of discrimination.

Make a complaint to the Commission

If you think you have been discriminated 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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