Modernising discrimination law in ACT

The ACT Government is committed to making Canberra more inclusive, progressive and equal for all Canberrans

As part of that commitment the Minister for Human Rights, Tara Cheyne, today introduced the Discrimination Amendment Bill 2022 into the Legislative Assembly.

Importantly, the Bill introduces a positive duty requiring organisations to take reasonable and proportionate steps to end discrimination, sexual harassment and unlawful vilification before it happens. This shifts the responsibility away from individual complainants and helps tackle systemic discrimination.

“Following from the new rules requiring employers to report sexual assault incidents to WorkSafe ACT passed in the Legislative Assembly last week, this change is about prevention: it’s about creating an environment where discriminatory treatment and problem behaviour is unlikely to happen in the first place,” Minister Cheyne said.

“One of the Government’s key legislative priorities has been to review and modernise the ACT’s discrimination law. I am proud now to introduce this Bill that has been developed in close consultation with our community and industry stakeholders.

“Consultation within government and across the Canberra community on modernising our discrimination law goes back to last year with the release of a discussion paper.

“This was followed by further consultation this year on an exposure draft with all views carefully considered to ensure the ACT is at the forefront of best practice in promoting equal opportunity, respect for diversity and social inclusion in our community.

“The introduction of the Bill is a big step forward to ensuring our city is one that all its residents can enjoy and thrive in, while feeling safe from discrimination,” Minister Cheyne said.

The proposed reforms include:

  • expanding the coverage of the Discrimination Act 1991 to more areas of public life where discrimination and sexual harassment are unlawful. The Act will cover formally organised sporting activities, formally organised competitions and the administration of Territory laws or ACT government programs or policies
  • refining and narrowing exceptions to unlawful discrimination relating to employment, workers in private homes, sport, clubs and voluntary bodies, insurance and superannuation providers and religious bodies
  • inserting a positive duty requiring all organisations, businesses, and individuals with over-arching management responsibility to take reasonable and proportionate steps to end discrimination, sexual harassment and unlawful vilification
  • introducing a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate a person’s protected attribute (protected attributes include age, religious conviction, sexuality, sex, gender identity, disability, pregnancy and employment status)

The ACT Government committed to reviewing the Discrimination Act 1991 in the Parliamentary and Government Agreement for the 10th Legislative Assembly.

Summaries of the feedback provided during the consultation periods can be found on the YourSay website.

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