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Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (January 2018), however may change without notice.


Discrimination and The Law

Discrimination means being treated less favourably because of a characteristic like age, gender, race or religion.

When is discrimination against the law?

Discrimination is against the law in specific areas of life, not in all situations.

The law says that discrimination is generally against the law in these situations:

  • at work, e.g. job selection, promotion, and dismissal
  • at school and other education and training settings
  • by people working in shops or places that provide a service, e.g. a café, hotel or taxi
  • in accommodation, e.g. renting a house
  • in membership of clubs and associations

In South Australia, it is usually against the law for someone to discriminate against you in any of the circumstances above based on  personal characteristics such as your:

  • sex,  gender identity, or sexuality
  • nationality or the colour of your skin
  • age or relationship status,
  • physical or intellectual disabilities
  • pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • family or carer responsibilities
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • trade union activity

Discrimination at school

Do laws against discrimination exist in all schools?

No, not all anti-discrimination laws apply to all schools or places of education. It depends whether you go to a public school or a private religious school.

Generally speaking, public schools and teachers within these schools must not illegally discriminate against a student or potential student based on a personal characteristic. This could be in an obvious way, like refusing to let you do a certain activity because of your sexuality. It could also be in indirect ways, like making a rule that every student must not wear anything that covers your hair in class when that would unfairly impact students who wear a head covering for religious reasons.

Private religious schools may be exempt from some discrimination laws.

However, if you feel that you’ve been discriminated against call the free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 to see if there’s any action you can take. 


Discrimination at work

Everyone has the right to a workplace that is free from discrimination. If you are being discriminated against or harassed because of some personal characteristic (for example your race, age, gender or sexual orientation), you have the right to get help to make it stop.

Discrimination in the workplace happens when you are treated less favourably than others because of some characteristic about you (race, religion, gender, disability etc.) and not because of your ability to do the job.

Discrimination can occur in the job application process, the conditions of employment (pay, hours etc.), benefits and training opportunities, promotions, transfers and dismissals.

It is not discrimination if you are treated differently at work for reasons like having poor performance that has nothing to do with a personal characteristic, or not giving you a job because you don’t meet the job requirements.


Places to get help and advice

If you’re being discriminated against, bullied or harassed you can get help and support. If you talk to your school or employer and they don’t do anything, you can contact the services below for assistance.


Legal Help Line: 1300 366 424

The Young Workers Legal Service: or (08) 8279 2233

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800

Australian Human Rights Commission:

SA Equal Opportunity Commission:


Remember, if you want to make a complaint about a school or employer discriminating against you, there are time limits about when you can do this. 

Get legal advice as soon as possible!


See also: the Law Handbook’s information on Discrimination, in particular on Making a Complaint.



The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre and Victoria Legal Aid in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.