1.4 Discrimination and Harassment


Understanding discrimination

  • Understand what discrimination can look like for LGBTIQ+ people, and multiple layers of oppression, and undertake more specific training where possible.

  • Recognise that LGBTIQ+ people may experience specific barriers and discrimination in shared accommodation (such as sharehousing) and the private rental market.

  • Adopt a ‘no wrong door’ approach so that LGBTIQ+ people who present to a service are given the support they need, and without having to retell their story to multiple providers.

  • Be aware of relevant Commonwealth and State/ Territory legislation regarding discrimination and victimisation.

Reporting and communication

  • Communicate anti-discrimination policies and behaviour codes to all clients upon intake and support them to be good allies (Ecker 2017). Name homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, prejudice against or pathologisation of intersex people, and racism, and promote a ‘Zero Tolerance’ approach to discrimination and harassment.

  • Respond to discrimination and harassment when they happen, and ensure that appropriate training, resources, and systems review are put in place.

  • Explain to clients that reporting discrimination and harassment does not affect their position or access to the welfare system.

  • Understand that previous traumatic experience with the law can impact on a client’s willingness to report discrimination and harassment, especially for asylum seekers fleeing persecution.

  • Ask if LGBTIQ+ people feel safe and supported at school and in higher education. Follow up with the education provider and advocate if they are being bullied, harassed, or experiencing other discrimination (Lambda Legal 2009; Marksamer, Spade, and Arkles 2011).

  • Include clear information on complaints pathways, ensure that complaints are taken seriously and managed appropriately, and support the complaints process. Have an in-depth discussion with the client about:

    • Options for lodging a formal/informal, internal/external, identified/anonymous complaint at organisational, State/Territory, and national levels (including via the Australian Human Rights Commission, for instance, if that is more relevant than the Equal Opportunity Commission).

    • Any safety concerns they might have during or after a complaint is made.


LGBTIQ+ people face increased risk of discrimination, stigma, harassment, and violence. Discrimination may not only come from service provider staff, institutions, workplaces, and the general public, but from within the LGBTIQ+ community [10], as well as multicultural, multifaith, and other communities that LGBTIQ+ people identify with, and in online spaces.

Discrimination is also an issue in the private rental market – especially for queer and trans people from Indigenous or migrant backgrounds, or with a disability. Racism, queerphobia, transphobia, and ableism (including lack of accessible housing generally) compound an already highly competitive housing climate, and there can be additional barriers such as increased risk of financial stress, lack of ID, and gaps in rental histories. Asylum seekers, who are unable to work on a bridging visa, are particularly vulnerable in shared accommodation.

Under the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984, amended in 2013 [11], it is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. Although religious exemptions and some state-based legislation may still allow exceptions, this should not be used as an excuse to reject clients or deny service (National LGBTI Health Alliance 2016). Nor should a fear that providing service to an LGBTIQ+ person might make other clients ‘uncomfortable’. The Australian Human Rights Commission provide more information about the Act, as well as examples of direct and indirect discrimination, on their website and information sheet (AHRC 2014a).

Importantly, the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975 prohibits racial vilification and unfair treatment on account of race, colour, descent, nationality, ethnicity, or immigration status (AHRC 2014b).

The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including discrimination on account of being accompanied by an assistant, interpreter, reader, trained animal, or equipment or other aid; it also protects people from discrimination, for example, if they are carers, parents, or friends of people with a disability (AHRC 2014c) [12].

More information about discrimination laws in Australia and making a complaint is available on the Australian Human Rights Commission website [13].

The Australian Human Rights Commission provide more information about the Act, as well as examples of direct and indirect discrimination, on their website and information sheet (AHRC 2014a).

Other legislation in States and Territories include:

Victoria: Equal Opportunity Act 2010 New South Wales: Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 Queensland: Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 Northern Territory: Anti-Discrimination Act Western Australia: Equal Opportunity Act 1984 Tasmania: Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 South Australia: Equal Opportunity Act 1984 Australian Capital Territory: Discrimination Act 1991

10. For example, racism, biphobia, transmisogyny, and ableism.

11. Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013.

12. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/brief-guide-disability-discrimination-act

13. www.humanrights.gov.au

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