Discrimination and harassment

Discrimination is the unfair treatment between different categories of either individuals or groups of people. It can be classified as either direct or indirect.

Direct Discrimination - when someone is treated less favourably than another person or group in a similar situation because of personal characteristics protected by law.

Indirect Discrimination - when an unreasonable requirement, condition or practice is imposed that has, or is likely to have, the effect of disadvantaging people with a personal characteristic protected by law.

Protected personal characteristics include:

  • a disability, disease or injury, including work-related injury
  • parental status or status as a carer
  • race, colour, descent, national origin, or ethnic background
  • age, whether young or old
  • sex
  • sexual orientation, intersex status or gender identity including:
    • gay
    • lesbian
    • bisexual
    • transsexual
    • transgender
    • queer and heterosexual
  • industrial activity, including being a member of an industrial organisation such as a trade union or taking part in industrial activity, or deciding not to join a union
  • religion
  • pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • marital status, whether married, divorced, unmarried or in a de facto relationship or same-sex relationship
  • political opinion
  • social origin
  • medical record
  • mental health concern
  • an association with someone who has, or is assumed to have, one of these characteristics e.g. being the parent of a child with a disability.

It is also against the law to treat someone unfavourably because you assume they have a personal characteristic or may have it at some time in the future.


Harassment occurs when uninvited or unwelcome behaviour causes someone, or a group of people, to feel intimidated, insulted or humiliated. It can occur in a single incident or a series of incidents. Harassment may also be experienced as a result of witnessing behaviour not directed to that person e.g. overhearing an unacceptable joke. Each person perceives things differently as their values and experiences are unique to them. As such, they may react differently to how someone might expect.

A single incident is enough to constitute harassment – it doesn’t have to be repeated.

Racial harassment

Racial harassment is another form of serious harassment. It describes any unwelcome conduct which can offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate a person because of:

  • colour
  • race
  • nationality
  • social or ethnic origin or extraction.

It can range from relatively minor abuse to physical violence. It can be discriminatory remarks, jokes, behaviours, images or practices which show racial intolerance against another person.

Racial vilification

Racial vilification occurs when someone incites or encourages hatred, serious contempt, revulsion or severe ridicule against another person or group on the grounds of their race and/or religion.

Support and resources

Internal resources

  • Safer Community: Contact Safer Community if witness or experience unacceptable behaviour
  • Counselling Support: Provides counselling support on a range of issues that may be affecting a person’s wellbeing
  • Use our crisis line for out of hours Mental Health and Wellbeing Support. Phone: 1300 146 307 or text: 0488 884 100. This service operates 5.00 pm–9.00 am on weekdays and 24 hours during weekends and public holidays.

External resources

  • Emergency: In an emergency ring: 000 and then security: 9479 2222
  • Lifeline – For anyone experiencing a personal crisis 24 hours a day, call: 13 11 14
  • Beyond Blue – 24/7 phone support, chat online service and resources for those needing support
  • Headspace – Free online and phone support and counselling to young people aged 12–25 years old and their families and friends
  • Switchboard – For LGBTIQA+ specific support and referral.