Community groups call for comprehensive review of NSW Anti-Discrimination Act

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

A coalition of community groups has today written an open letter to NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman, calling on him to commission an independent review of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW).

‘This legislation is failing in its fundamental duty to protect vulnerable people in NSW against discrimination and vilification,’ the open letter states.
‘The Anti-Discrimination Act has fallen behind every other anti-discrimination law in Australia and needs a major overhaul to be fit for the 21st century,’ said PIAC CEO Mr Jonathon Hunyor.
‘The Act is patchy, inconsistent and confusing. The law should be simple and clear, so people can understand how their rights are protected and what they need to do to avoid breaching the rights of others. It also should reflect current community standards’.
‘Instead, the law fails in terms of who is protected. It fails on how discrimination is defined, and the areas of public life where discrimination is prohibited. It fails to ensure people with disability can fully participate in society. It fails to adequately protect people against sexual harassment’, said Mr Hunyor.
Signatories to the joint letter include:
• The Women’s Electoral Lobby NSW
• People with Disability Australia
• Community Legal Centres NSW
• ACON
• The NSW Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby
• The Gender Centre
• Intersex Human Rights Australia
• Professor Simon Rice, University of Sydney
• The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
‘The list of the Anti-Discrimination Act’s problems is long, but solving them doesn’t have to be complex. We have modern laws across Australia that are tried and tested and provide a useful guide for NSW,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.
The last comprehensive review of the Anti-Discrimination Act was completed by the NSW Law Reform Commission in the late 1990s, but its recommendations were never implemented. Recent parliamentary inquiries have recognised that an overhaul is now well overdue.
‘Years of piecemeal tinkering has left the most vulnerable members of the community without adequate protection against discrimination. We’re calling on Attorney General Speakman to take the first step in modernising our Anti-Discrimination Act – commissioning an independent review that lays the foundation for comprehensive reform,’ Mr Hunyor said.
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