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Australia is a proud multi-cultural country

Australia is a proud multi-cultural country. 

The people who make up our nation identify with more than 270 different ancestries, and we are home to the world’s oldest continuous Indigenous culture.

Despite our rich cultural diversity, many Australians are treated unfairly or experience racism because of how they look, or where they come from.

What is race discrimination?

Race discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably, or is not given the same opportunities, as others in the same situation, because of their race, the country where they were born, their skin colour or their ethnic origin.

The law

The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his or her race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, or immigrant status.

The RDA protects people from race discrimination in many areas of public life, including employment, education, accessing or using services, renting or buying a house or unit, and accessing public places.

There are also laws in different states and territories that protect people against race discrimination.

For example, in Queensland, the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person because of their race.

A person’s race includes their:

  • colour
  • descent or ancestry
  • ethnicity or ethnic origin
  • nationality or national origin

Employees and potential employees

It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race when advertising jobs, during recruitment and selection processes, and when making decisions about training, transfers and promotions, and the termination of someone’s employment.

Examples of racial discrimination in employment could include:

  • insisting that all employees speak English at all times, even during their breaks
  • not employing someone from a particular racial group because ‘those people are unreliable’
  • not employing or promoting someone because of assumptions they wouldn’t ‘fit in’ with their colleagues
  • unfair treatment in the course of work on the basis of race such as subjecting employees to negative comments about their race

The RDA also protects people from being treated unfairly if they friends or associates with a person of a particular race, colour or national or ethnic origin.


It is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their race in the provision of services, such as banking and insurance services, services provided by government departments, transport or telecommunication services, professional services, such as those provided by lawyers, doctors or tradespeople.

It is also unlawful to discriminate against someone when providing services in restaurants, shops or entertainment venues.

This means that it is against the law for a provider of goods or services to discriminate against a person based on their race by:

  • refusing to provide a person with goods, services and facilities
  • providing them with goods, services and facilities on less favourable terms and conditions, or
  • providing the goods, services and facilities in an unfair manner

For example, it would be discriminatory if a real estate agent refused to rent a house to a person because they were of a particular race or skin colour.

How we can help

If you have experienced discrimination on the basis of your race, our team of Australian workplace lawyers and industrial advocates can help.

We can take action on your behalf and represent you in the Human Rights Commission or any other relevant commission or tribunal.

We have a proven track record of negotiating substantial compensation for our clients.

Make no mistake, we will not give up fighting until we have achieved justice for you.


Workers dismissed from employment because of race have just 21-days from the date of dismissal to file a claim. So don’t delay!


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LAST UPDATED: March 2022

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