Discussion paper

Discussion paper: priorities for federal discrimination law reform

Human rights Discrimination Australia

In 2019-2020, the Australian Human Rights Commission (Commission) is undertaking a national conversation on human rights to identify reform proposals to better protect human rights in Australia.  An issues paper guiding the process was released in April 2019.

The issues paper notes that by mid-2020 the Commission will release a final report in which it recommends, among other things:

  • An agenda for federal law reform to protect human rights and freedoms fully.
  • Priorities for reforming federal discrimination law to make it more effective, comprehensive and fairer in its protections, and simpler to understand.

This paper sets out the Commission’s preliminary views on the priorities for federal discrimination law reform. It identifies the need for reform, the principles that should guide it, and the 11 major priority areas for reform to ensure effective protection against discrimination at the federal level.

The paper includes a series of questions to obtain the views of the community about these proposals and other issues of concern to the community.

Federal discrimination law plays a critical role in providing remedies to the most vulnerable members of our community. This paper considers how these laws can be most effective in meeting their purpose.

It is important to note, however, that there is an overreliance on discrimination laws to protect human rights. While systemic outcomes such as changes to policy and practice are often achieved through complaints being made, it is a dispute-focused model that is remedial rather than proactive.

Discrimination laws operate in the absence of broader human rights protections at the federal level. How to address this issue is the subject of another Commission discussion paper about enhancing human rights protections in Australia to be released in 2019.

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