Protections against discrimination strengthened

Anti-discrimination laws in the ACT will be strengthened and expanded to protect the rights of every Canberran under reforms passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly today.

Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne has welcomed the changes to the Discrimination Act 1991 (the Act), aimed at ensuring Canberra is city of equality, inclusiveness, and respect for diversity.

“Importantly, the law reforms introduce a positive duty or responsibility on Government, organisations and businesses to eliminate discrimination, sexual harassment, and unlawful vilification,” Minister Cheyne said.

“This positive duty will encourage a proactive approach to preventing discrimination in our community and shift the responsibility away from individuals having to make a complaint.”

The new obligation to eliminate discrimination applies to public authorities initially, coming into effect in twelve months’ time. It will be extended to other organisations after three years to ensure there is enough time to provide education and support.

The reforms also expand the areas in public life where anti-discrimination laws apply, including formally organised sporting activities, formally organised competitions and the administration of ACT laws or government program.

In addition, the exceptions in the Act (situations where it is not unlawful to discriminate) have been refined, including exceptions relating to employment, workers in private homes, sport, clubs and voluntary bodies, insurance and superannuation providers and religious bodies.

Minister Cheyne noted the ACT Government has not gone on this lengthy discrimination law reform journey alone.

“I thank the organisations and community members who have contributed to the robust discussions and feedback on the proposed changes during the last two years of consultation,” Minister Cheyne said.

“We know discrimination is an ongoing concern, especially for those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the LGBTIQ community and people with a disability.

“These changes to our anti-discrimination laws will better support the human rights of Canberrans and strengthen protections for all Canberrans.”

The ACT Government has delivered its commitment to review the anti-discrimination laws in the Parliamentary and Government Agreement for the 10th Legislative Assembly.

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